Supreme Court Hears Case on Gender Wage Discrimination

The Supreme Court heard a case on Monday that calls into question the constitutionality of the six month statute of limitations on wage discrimination cases imposed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The plaintiff in the case is Lilly Ledbetter, who worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for 19 years before realizing that she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts with the same or less experience. After pressing charges in 1998, a jury awarded her a settlement of $3.5 million, which was then reduced by a judge to $360,000. An Atlanta federal appeals court then reversed the decision, ruling that since no intentional wage discrimination had occurred in the last six months, Goodyear could not be held accountable for the original discrimination.

An issue in this case is whether in cases of wage discrimination, the statute of limitation applies solely to the original discriminatory act, or whether because of the cumulative nature of salary raises, each paycheck affected by the original discrimination is a new case of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for handling cases of workplace discrimination, has held in the past that every paycheck should be considered a discriminatory offense, which extends the amount of time employees have to file suit against their employer. The Bush administration supports the six-month limitation to the original offense and has come to the aid of Goodyear, according to the New York Times.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only female justice, seemed to be the most favorable of Ledbetter’s appeal, according to the New York Times. Said Bader Ginsburg about the impracticality of the six-month limitation for wage discrimination cases: “You really don’t have an effective claim unless it builds up to the point where you have a noticeable disparity,'” according to Women’s eNews. Wage discrimination on the basis of gender is still a widespread problem for women. In 2005, women earned only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, Women’s eNews reports.

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Women�s eNews 11/28/06; New York Times 11/28/06; Associated Press 11/28/06

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