Lilly Ledbetter Watched As Obama Signed Fair Pay Act

A letter from Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel, on today's signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:

Just hours ago, I shared an incredible moment with Lilly Ledbetter -- who stood in the White House and watched President Obama sign a piece of legislation bearing her name. One can only imagine what that feels like.

But, we know this much: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act struck a powerful blow for justice not just for her, but for anyone who has been victimized by wage discrimination.

This legislation righted a wrong perpetrated by the Supreme Court in its horrendous 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision. Today at the White House, Lilly emphasized that this is just a first step for equal pay -- the best way to celebrate this victory is to pave the way for another one.

Victims of wage discrimination had their rights virtually stripped away in the Supreme Court decision involving Lilly Ledbetter's case. The Court said that a complaint couldn't be brought more than 180 days after the first act of discrimination.

That meant, if a company could get away with discriminating for 180 days, it could go on discriminating forever. But, not now.

The legislation signed today restores the fundamentally just principle that as long as discrimination continues in the workplace, so too does an employee's ability to do something about it. Now, let's build on our momentum by pressing for another bold stroke against wage discrimination.

Women currently make, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap for women of color is even wider. We can help address this wage gap by updating the Equal Pay Act -- passed more than 45 years ago.

The Paycheck Fairness Act will put an end to loopholes and weak remedies that have made the Equal Pay Act less effective than it should be in combating wage discrimination. It will also strengthen outreach, education and enforcement efforts and prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about employers' wage practices.

Together, we have railed and agitated against the injustice of the Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision. And now we have won that fight. Let's honor Lilly Ledbetter's courage and persistence by taking the next critical step against wage discrimination and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.


Deborah J. Vagins
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office