Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in a wage discrimination case against the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Company, spoke yesterday before the House Committee on Education and Labor, highlighting the difficulties employees face when reporting incidents of discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court recently ruled against Ledbetter, and members of the House and Senate have vowed to correct Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with legislation.
Ledbetter began her testimony with details of her case, including the legal decisions that ended in the Supreme Court last month. She then spoke of the implications of wage discrimination, which can have lasting effects. “The truth is, Goodyear continues to treat me like a second-class worker to this day because my pension and social security is based on the amount I earned while working there,” Ledbetter stated. “Goodyear gets to keep my extra pension as a reward for breaking the law.”
In addition to experiencing wage discrimination, Ledbetter testified that she had also been a victim of sexual harassment. In the early 1980s, one of her supervisors implied that if she did not go to a motel with him she would receive a poor evaluation. She was able to resolve the issue with her supervisor through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Her complaint, however, led to an increasingly hostile work environment. After this incident, Ledbetter said she “got a taste of what happens when you try to complain about discrimination.”
During the hearing, committee chair Rep. George Miller (D-CA) recognized the injustice in the 5-4 Supreme Court decision, calling it, “a painful step backwards for civil rights in this country.” He and other Democratic committee members referenced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, calling on Congress to rectify the decision through legislative means. “A slim majority of the Supreme Court shunned reason in order to satisfy its own narrow ideological agenda. Reason — and justice — demand a different result,” Miller said.