On January 29, 2009 women took a significant step forward in efforts to end pay discrimination. With the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act women subjected to unlawful pay discrimination are once again able to effectively assert their rights under federal anti-discriminatnion laws. This anniversary is a moment to celebrate and the result of a significant battle to undue the damage and malice of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.. It’s a significant anniversary and one that was rightly recognized by Congress.
It’s also important to remember that Ledbetter was a remedy, a piece of legislation needed to fix the damage done by the Supreme Court. So that means, as a measure of progress, we need to remember that we’ve actually gone nowhere. Sure, it hasn’t gotten any worse, but that is hardly an event worth celebrating.
What that means is that women continue to face wage discrimination, and they face it daily. In the midst of the worst economic recession since The Great Depression and when women outnumber men in the workplace, wage discrimination does more harm to more people than ever before. That’s why, more than ever, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, like Ledbetter, is also remedial. It closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and bars retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination currently available for race or national origin discrimination. Perhaps most importantly it hits businesses where it matters by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damages, because, unfortunately, discriminatory conduct won’t end until it becomes too expensive for businesses to tolerate.
So what better way to mark the anniversary of the Lilly Lebdetter Act than plugging the rest of the holes that permit pay discrimination to persist? If we want to stimulate the economy and bring more money to working families, let’s start by paying women fairly.
photo courtesy of yomanimus via Flickr