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On the Anniversary of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Fight for Fair Pay Continues

On the Anniversary of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Fight for Fair Pay Continues

January 29 marks the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. A major victory in the fight for women’s pay equity, the Ledbetter Act was the very first bill that President Barack Obama signed into law.

Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire Company for 19 years before discovering that she was being paid significantly less than her male counterparts who had the same or less experience than she. Goodyear even had a policy making it a fireable offense to share salary information. After she received an anonymous tip alerting her to the wage discrimination, Ledbetter filed a complaint, her case went to trial, and it eventually reached the Supreme Court of the United States. In May 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. that under existing law, wage discrimination cases had to be filed within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck or a worker was not entitled to compensation. The Court’s decision ignored the realities of employment practices; employers rarely advertise their discriminatory practices and it takes time, often years, before an employee may become aware of the disparate wage.

The Ledbetter Act responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling by ensuring that individuals subjected to unlawful pay discrimination are able to assert their rights under the federal anti-discrimination laws. Under this law, each discriminatory paycheck resets the 180-day limit to file a claim, rather than the original decision to discriminate. The Ledbetter Act is a critical tool for women, and people who wage discrimination, to correct this injustice.

Jewish tradition teaches, “A society and a family are like a pile of stones. If you remove one stone, the pile will collapse. If you add a stone to it, it will stand,” (Midrash Rabbah Genesis 100:7). By paying women fair and equal wages to men, you are not only helping women, but ensuring financial security for entire families. The Union for Reform Judaism has long supported workplace fairness and women’s economic justice as demonstrated through our resolutions. Further, Women of Reform Judaism has made Pay Equity a social justice priority, encouraging sisterhoods to program on and advocate for pay equity.

While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a huge step towards pay equity, new census data shows that on average, women make only 79 cents to every dollar that white non-Hispanic men make. In today’s society where women are the primary or sole earners in 40% of families, it is important now more than ever that we make sure that pay equity for women is achieved.

Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bill would ensure that there is effective protection against sex-based pay discrimination and would allow women to receive the same remedies in court for pay discrimination as those subjected to discrimination based on race or national origin. For more information on pay equity, visit the RAC’s issue page and WRJ’s advocacy initiative page

This post originally appeared on WRJ's blog

Tracy Wolf was a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), and currently serves as the RAC's Leadership Development Associate. Originally from Syosset, N.Y., she is a member of North Shore Synagogue and a graduate of Dickinson College.

Tracy Wolf