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The Importance of the Lilly Ledbetter Act

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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has been throwing daggers into right wing sides, once again. It is the first law President Obama signed into effect when he took office in January of 2009, only three days into his term.

Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear for pay discrimination. She took her case to the Supreme Court and lost. The ruling was based on a time statute issue. According to the Court, she had 180 days to file her discrimination claim after she discovered she was being discriminated against. Ms. Ledbetter filed after six years. President Obama lifted the 180 rule for pay discrimination.

With Mitt Romney in the Republican Party spotlight, the issue has become active once again. The Republicans want to reverse and reinstate the 180 day rule. The Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republicans called the law “a ‘handout’ (note party slogan) to trial lawyers.” The “handout” goes to businesses, on the backs of women. With women without children earning $.90, women with children earning $.73, and single mothers earning $.60 to every man dollar, there is a definite issue. Are the conservatives oblivious to women’s issues or are they just egotistically imperious? The roles and responsibilities of women are complex and should be appreciated and respected, not diminished and regulated.

Every working mother knows how to juggle work with home and children. Even in dual parenting families the mother takes responsibility for the children. She is in charge of baths, homework, doctor appointments, bedtimes, parent-teacher conferences, daycare, illness, nurturing, and values. Some fathers have stepped up to the plate, but the majority of women still handle all the affairs with the children.

For single mothers the stress is much higher. Many single mothers don’t have the advantage of having a father at home to absorb even the slightest responsibility. They must work to provide, even with state assistance. All the responsibility falls on the single mothers. While at work, the single mom stresses about her children at home. She worries about their needs and how she can provide. While at home, she worries about her job and how she can excel and make more money. She worries about instilling values in her children. She becomes both the mother and the father. She doesn’t have to play time, relaxation time or even stress free time, and if she gets a night out she feels guilty.

Society usually looks down on single mothers. Neighbors comment, “Look at that woman across the street with those three kids. She doesn’t have a husband.” Single fathers don’t have that same label. For them it becomes: “Look at that poor man trying to raise those three kids by himself.” It should be the poor woman, because financially, she can’t compete with that “poor” man.

For decades, men have complained about paying child support. They complain that their ex had her nails done with his money. They forget that she paid all the bills, missed work because the children were sick, stayed up all night cleaning vomit, bought clothes, shoes, and tended to every other childcare need. The importance becomes the $12.00 manicure. She is a bad mom.

The father, sometimes totally absent, can gamble, sit in bars and drink away his paycheck, go on vacations, purchase new vehicles, and shirk his parenting responsibilities. He chooses to alienate his children. Yes, he may be arrested for not paying his child support, but that doesn’t go very far. He is usually released from jail by just giving the court what he has in his pockets. If a woman took her paycheck and did the same, she would be brought up on child neglect charges. Why is Dad allowed to neglect his children? Why isn’t nonpayment of child support a neglect issue?

It’s because of these reasons that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is imperative to the growth of women. Women depend on their jobs and are sometimes afraid to make waves. They can’t afford to take a chance and lose their jobs by filing suit against their boss or company. They need time to build the strength to face the financial demons. The pre Ledbetter law didn’t allow for that time. The conservatives disagree.

When women fill both roles they should be honored, not shamed and degraded. With 13.7 million single parents, 85 percent of whom are single mothers, they deserve a break. They work hard and they carry a burden most men will never understand. So, with the conservatives trying to cast sanctions on women, like birth control, abortions, and unequal pay, think about a woman’s real role in society: motherhood. She is responsible for nurturing the children. The children of single mothers, too, are the children of our future.

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About Pam Messingham

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    There’s a difference between a manager who “wants to get good work done” and a manager who not only does what’s necessary to ensure good work gets done but is loyal to those under his or her supervision.

    Almost all managers want to get good work done…but all too seldom is there the manager who goes the extra mile to make sure the workers have not only the negative but especially the positive motivation to produce good work.

    Clavos’ observation about women at work dovetails precisely with what I’ve seen – women tend to work harder and more conscientiously than men do…but such doesn’t go for all women. Some will try to game the system. Sadly, most Republicans use the excuse of the one bad apple to deny equal-pay rights for the rest of the bushel of good apples.

  • Cannonshop

    #39 what, a manager who wants to actually get good work done? Probably IS the exception there.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Props to you…but you must admit that all to often people like you are the exception to the rule.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    When it comes to the ‘Nazi’ violation of Godwin’s Law, we called no one a Nazi…but we did point out the eerie similarity between the MS GOP governor’s proclamation and the Nazis’ “blood libel”. When words and actions fit so closely to what Nazis did, is it wrong to point out the similarity? Or is it wrong to NOT point out the similarity?

  • Clav

    I worked in the airline industry for 30 years, beginning in 1971. Even back then, women made the same pay as men in the same job; and if more experienced or with greater skills, more.

    There was one difference, however. In general, women worked harder and more conscientiously than their male counterparts. As a result, when I was hiring, all other considerations being equal, I always hired the woman.

    That practice really paid off when I fired a woman whom I had caught cheating on her expense account and lying that she had been on the road making sales calls in her territory, when in fact, I found out she had not even been in the city that week. I replaced her with another woman, and a few weeks later the woman I had fired sued me, my boss, and the company for gender discrimination in her firing. She folded like a cheap tent when our attorneys pointed out that her replacement was also a woman.

    But she was the exception.

  • I didn’t call anyone a Nazi.

  • Baronius

    I didn’t think I was talking down to you. But I’ll do my best not to condescend if you try not to call your opponents Nazis.

  • Thanks EL but that isn’t how I read it. I’m sorry if I mislead. That makes it even worse because how would you even know in 180 days…if ever.

  • Please don’t condescend. I’m not an idiot and by asking these questions just shows me that you think like the men that talk down to women like they are missing links or parts of a story. I know this as fact. Assume, once again, if you will…but you know what they say about people that assume!

  • “the actual discrimination must have occurred within the 180-day timeframe. Look it up.”

    Then the second paragraph of this article needs to be amended.

  • Baronius

    Pam, do you work with these people? A lot of people tell stories about their workplace and they’re always the hero, but until you work with them you don’t know what their strengths and weaknesses are. I never give my friends the benefit of the doubt when they tell me about their bad co-workers, because I know that I could say the same thing and I’d be unfair about it. And there are plenty of people who have special experience or training, or have some additional responsibility at work that you don’t know about. Equal pay for equal work assumes that there are any two jobs that are equal, and I’ve rarely found that to be the case. If women make .78 of what men make, and we can account for .20 of the rest, I’m going to be hesitant about making too many assumptions about the remaining .02.

    And, of course, we’re not talking about a law that ends the pay gap. We’re talking about a law that allows for lawsuits over pay discrepancies beyond 180 days. It’s fair to ask whether this particular law addresses the pay gap in an effective way. Or not – maybe it’s all Nazis and un-Americans who are responsible. But we’ve already demonstrated that the majority of the pay gap isn’t Nazis, and we already have laws in place to prosecute the remaining cases which are currently taking place.

  • In #27 if the people are being paid at the same hourly rate…there isn’t discrimination if he puts in more hours than she does IF she is offered the same amount of hours and he isn’t allocated those hours. That become a different story. Af for experience, that can be weighed in a multitude of ways. On the job experience, life experience, and education. A great example of this is a specific workplace of someone I know. Three people… two hold degrees. (these are engineers at a very high ranking facility) One doesn’t. Out of the three people two are paid equally…the one that is paid less, for the same job and with a degree does NOT make as much as the other two men. Discrimination.

  • Baronius

    Pam, I believe that you’re not looking to claim discrimination falsely. It’s just hard to tell where it takes place. It’s like the WWI Veteran’s benefit fund – sure, there are still some cases, and they deserve attention, but if you’ve got 1100 people running the outfit then there’s something askew. Now tell me, Pam, looking at the numbers I put in comment #27, how much discrimination would you have guessed is taking place? And what makes you so confident in deciding how a particular firm should weight employees’ experience?

  • Don’t assume what “Pam” would think…what Pam thinks is this…the men worked more hours…if paid hourly…that is excusable if the pay rate is the same. As for the difference of 8.2 and 10.2 years experience…that’s inane. No..B…I’m not looking to hang discrimination where it doesn’t belong…only where it does. You have a male bartender…paid the same as a female bartender….she makes a ton more money….she has 5 years experience…he has two….she cleans up at the end of the night and he can’t afford cab fair home…discrimination…no. Should the bar owner make up the difference? Of course not. They are equally paid.

  • Baronius

    I said “the same”, and I shouldn’t have. Some studies show women earning slightly less. I’ve seen one (that I can’t find now) that shows them earning slightly more. And since the studies are generally censuses, you can’t talk about statistical significance. My point is that their earnings are sufficiently similar that any effort to make them closer is unlikely to be fair.

    You have to make some questionable assumptions applying adjustments to particular cases. If a company has 110 employees, 60 men and 50 women, and the women work 7.7 hours per day and the men work 8.1 hours per day, and the men average 10.2 years experience and the women average 8.2 years, and the women earn $36000 per year and the men earn $48000 per year, by my calculations the women are discriminated against by 2%. Of course, my calculations are absurd, because depending on the industry and the person, experience has to be weighted differently. Pam would look at the numbers I just presented and say that there’s $12000 discrimination per woman. In my simulation, I had $900 discrimination per woman. But if you can’t look at my numbers and derive the amount of discrimination I factored in, then you shouldn’t expect a business to be able to defend itself against charges of discrimination in that way.

  • I saw it happen to my wife at a home building company she had been at for a while when a guy who had no experience in industry got the same job she had through a friend and started off making more. It’s bull crap

    Yes, it is, but did he get paid more than your wife because he was a man, or was it just cronyism?

  • It’s not 180 days after the incident, but “180 days to file her discrimination claim after she discovered she was being discriminated against” as the article states.

    No, El B, the decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was that the actual discrimination must have occurred within the 180-day timeframe. Look it up.

  • If the explanation were truly benign, Baronius (and I concede that it probably is in many instances), then surely we would expect to find industries in which women earn up to 5% more than men – in other words, we should see a bell curve.

    I do think you’re shifting the goalposts a bit. Your original claim was simply that women are paid equally. That’s been shown to be wrong. Now you’re saying essentially that 5% is statistically insignificant, which is debatable. Even polling companies generally use a 3% margin of error, and they’re working with far smaller sample sizes and a lot more noise.

    As to your last point, I suspect that the vast majority of women are not going to be too bothered about discrimination they suffered long ago. But that doesn’t mean an avenue for remedy should be closed to them.

  • El…people fear losing their jobs. Though I agree, confront and make right, if not sue, that’s easy for me to say…I’m not in that position, but if I was…I still have kids to feed.

  • Sorry, but anything that shows discrimination is unjust…period. This isn’t turn of the century rhetoric. When and why do men find themselves superior to women? They deem this credit to themselves. It shows their own inferiority…bash what you fear. If employers fear Ledbetter…than here is a newsflash for them: Don’t discriminate! It’s very simple…

  • “the 180 day thing is just nonsense: it might be years before a woman finds out that she was being paid less than a male colleague doing the same job.”

    It’s not 180 days after the incident, but “180 days to file her discrimination claim after she discovered she was being discriminated against” as the article states. Why would a woman need six months to decide if she was going to sue over this? Put company on notice immediately, give them a month to rectify it, then another month to find an attorney.

    Not sure why Baronius thinks he’s making his point when he states different studies that show they don’t make the same.

    Though not part of a study, I saw it happen to my wife at a home building company she had been at for a while when a guy who had no experience in industry got the same job she had through a friend and started off making more. It’s bull crap

  • Baronius

    Dread, it shows a persistent gap of -1 to 5%. Any gap is immoral and illegal if motivated by sexism, but just as age, experience, et cetera can explain most of the gap, is it possible that the remaining gap could also be explained benignly? And is it worth tying up companies in court for decades-old claims that would cost a fortune to disprove? There are always going to be some aphids in your chocolate, if you get my meaning.

  • Baronius

    Pam, first of all, if these percentages are correct, you should stop saying that women earn .90 or lower for each dollar earned by men. Secondly, you may want to consider whether it’s right to open up every company to potential lawsuits extending back indefinitely. Scare words or not, that’s going to be a windfall for lawyers and a potential nuisance cost for employers. Considering how laws can have unintended consequences, you should note that the Lilly Ledbetter Law may be an oversized hammer for an overestimated nail. And finally, you should at least allow that a person can read the academic studies and wonder whether this particular legislation should be changed without being motivated by Nazism or un-Americanism.

  • Baronius, your reference in #15 shows the precise opposite of what you were attempting to argue.

    From the article: “Even after controlling for [factors like education, age and experience], though, an unexplained gap still exists across nearly every job category.”

    The article is about professions in which the gender/salary gap is narrowest, in contrast to the general trend.

  • Baronius

    I’m not familiar with CONSAD, buth they seem to have done a nice review of the literature here. They find a 5-7% wage gap after adjustments; in other words, a woman earns 93-95% of what a man earns when controlled for experience et cetera.

  • Conclusion: Women should get paid the exact same as anyone else in the same position.

  • Baronius

    Any serious academic study will show the same results. Here is a reference to a study that finds the same conclusion. Women get paid within a percentage point or two what men get paid.

  • As for killing babies…wow…I don’t get why the r’s keep strumming the abortion drum…and it’s usually men…smoke screen issues?

  • Glenn, remember one new law that both the dems and reps just signed. The NDAA law gives our military the ability to strike on our own soil. That is constitutionally forbidden…or at least it “USED TO BE” until NDAA. NDAA also allows “due process” to be put on the back burner. We can now arrest and detain without charges…and indefinetely. Scary move.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Pam –

    I hate to say it, but it is somewhat like the years immediately before Hitler took the chancellorship of Germany in that one side utterly vilifies a certain group of people and any consideration for that or negotiation with that other side was strictly verboten. Think about it – is the MS governor’s declaration that “all Democrats want to do is to kill babies in the womb” really much different from the Nazi’s ‘blood libel’ against the Jews?

    Fortunately, I really don’t think the situation can go much beyond where it’s at right now, for Hitler had the military under his personal command, and even if that same MS governor were elected president, I cannot conceive of our military being a tool of terror to the degree that the Webrmacht was…but then I once believed that torture would never be legal in America….

  • Dr. Dread, the point is this law is highlighted with the Repubs for the new election. Mitt is being bombarded with questions on Ledbetter. They want it reversed. That was the point.

  • Baronius didn’t provide a source for his assertion, but this op-ed from Forbes enlarges on what he’s talking about.

    I can’t really speak for the private sector as I have next to no experience of it, but the public sector tends to have set pay scales that make wage discrimination impossible. I’m about to start a new public sector job myself: it wouldn’t matter if every square inch of my body was covered in thick bushy hair, I had a chest like a whiskey barrel and balls the size of avocados, and my voice sounded like a cross between Christopher Lee and that guy who does voiceovers for truck commercials – I still wouldn’t get paid a penny more or less than a female hiree starting on the same day, and (assuming neither of us were promoted (or we both were)) my pay raise after one year would be exactly the same as hers.

    I understand that the private sector has a lot more discretion when it comes to salary awards, with the potential for conscious or unconscious discrimination that entails. Whether such discrimination is endemic is for others to discuss.

    I do agree that the 180 day thing is just nonsense: it might be years before a woman finds out that she was being paid less than a male colleague doing the same job.

    “It’s more than six months ago, water under the bridge, and she has no right to still be pissed about it” doesn’t sound like much of a legal argument to me.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Got anything to back up what you said? Otherwise, that’s the single most ignorant and misguided thing I’ve ever seen you post.

  • And please, I am not shallow minded…people are free to disagree with me at any time, unless they are going to go against our AMERICAN rights and go with laws that reverse our growth and freedom! That, my dear, is UNAMERICAN!

  • No, Baronius, it’s HISTORY! It tends to repeat itself when people don’t pay attention to it! Like Hitler said:How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.

  • Baronius, you’re kidding me, right?

  • Baronius

    No, um, I mean, it’s Nazis, Pam. Definitely Nazis. If someone doesn’t agree with you, you can safely assume that they’re Nazis and don’t have a legitimate perspective that’s different from yours.

  • Baronius

    When controlled for experience, hours, and profession, women receive equal pay to men.

  • Glenn, I was just thinking about the thought process of the rep/conservatives. It’s like EVERYTHING they are coming up with is so pre Nazi Germany. Is it just me or are they making laws that are taking us backwards instead of forward? It’s sort of scary. Like your last quote from your article yesterday…they use God to back their “greed” and I’m amazed that anyone can buy into it…but they do. I don’t get it!

  • I don’t understand why anyone would even consider unequal pay. I really don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with Ledbetter…except…like the New Hampshire Executive of the Republicans said…it’s a handout to trial lawyer! Are you kidding me?! People buy into that “handout” stuff, though. Like your mom, could she risk her job by filing against her company when she was a single mom? Yes, single mom’s have it really tough and they are frowned upon as if they choose to be where they are. All this anti woman stuff has to end…ya know?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Pam –

    I don’t think any of the BC conservatives will dispute a single word of your article. They know you’re right – any good man would know you’re right. Why the conservatives would oppose the LL Act, I simply don’t understand. Sure, they’ll claim it’s because they don’t like Big Government interfering with business, but we’ve all seen that the GOP loves big government when it comes to the DOD and especially on what we’ve come to term the “war on women”.

    As for myself, it makes no sense to not require equal pay for equal work. I was raised by a single mom – never had a dad around the house from the time I was two – and it frustrated me no end to see what she went through. At one point she managed a small department store and had one of the best performance records in the entire chain of stores…but she still wasn’t paid as much as other (male) managers and IIRC was paid about the same as her (male) assistant manager. I never forgot that, and the more I just shook my head when the conservatives on the Supreme Court screwed over Lily Ledbetter and magically pulled a six-month time limit out of their robes. What a travesty of justice that was!

    I do hope that Obama trots out the ERA for the campaign so we can watch the conservatives fall all over themselves opposing it once more – but this time, with the way society has changed over the past thirty years, I suspect we’d find an overwhelming level of support among the people.