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Lilly Ledbetter Encounters Many Hurdles on the Road to Equal Pay

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Lilly Ledbetter's name has become synonymous with the struggle for equal pay in the United States. The Alabama resident's name is forever attached to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Barack Obama signed in the wake of a high-profile lawsuit that ultimately was decided against Ledbetter.

We recently learned that Ledbetter remains involved in the effort to level playing fields in the American workplace. We also learned, based on a review of public documents, that Ledbetter apparently shares something with us here at Legal Schnauzer: She was shafted by her own attorneys.

Ledbetter traveled to Washington, D.C., back in November to help push for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which had passed the U.S. House and was being debated in the Senate. The measure would ensure that women do not face retaliation for seeking information about what their male co-workers earn.

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Ledbetter's pay, compared to her male co-workers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Gadsden, was a central issue in the lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and turned Ledbetter into a national figure. The Paycheck Fairness Act is considered an important followup to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But the initial effort to pass the measure did not have a happy ending in the Senate. Reports The Birmingham News:

The bill, backed by women's organizations and President Obama, failed by two votes, with all 58 Democrats voting in favor while all 41 Republicans opposed it. Three Republican women senators who previously voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act. 

"It is upsetting to me that something that would benefit everyone got caught up in politics," Ledbetter said in a telephone interview Thursday while driving back to her Jacksonville home.

Ledbetter came to national attention after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a nearly $4-million judgment in her favor against Goodyear Tire and Rubber. In a 5-4 decision in 2007, the high court ruled that Ledbetter was not entitled to back pay because she had filed her claim more than 180 days after receiving her first discriminatory paycheck.

The ruling prompted Congress in 2009 to pass the law bearing Ledbetter's name, making it easier for workers to pursue pay-discrimination claims. Ledbetter has not rested on the laurels of one legislative victory:

Over the past two years, Ledbetter says she has made dozens of speeches across the country and met hundreds of people who say her willingness to stand up for her rights inspired them to do the same. Last month, Ledbetter spoke at the Women's Leadership Institute at Auburn University as part of its Extraordinary Women Lecture Series.

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Institute Director Barbara Baker said Ledbetter is an inspiration to women across the country.

"Lilly is such a brave woman," Baker said. "Most people figure why fight the system because you can't win. She showed us how you can make a difference."

Baker said Ledbetter is to be commended for using her notoriety to continue the fight for gender fairness in the workplace. "She's become the public face of equal pay," Baker said.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
 

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