by Robert Bell
6:30 p.m. CALS Main Library. Free.
The idea that a woman wouldn't be paid the same as a man for doing the same job is offensive to the basic sense of fairness most people would agree that society should aspire to. So it's logical then that a woman who was paid substantially less than her male colleagues for doing the same job as them for nearly two decades would seek relief from the courts.
That's what Alabaman Lilly Ledbetter did, and she was awarded $3.3 million (though according to an article in Time, that amount was later reduced to $300,000). The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the conservative wing struck down the ruling in a 5-4 vote, stating that because Ledbetter did not complain about the discriminatory nature of her pay within 180 days of receiving her first paycheck, that she was not entitled to any judgment against her former employer, Goodyear.
Of course, compensation details are confidential at most corporations, and Ledbetter only learned of the pay disparity as she was preparing to retire, after a colleague slipped her a note anonymously. The Supreme Court's decision seems to ignore this important detail. Ledbetter was a guest on Stephen Colbert's show last fall. He summed up the court's decision thusly: "Their logic was, you should have known before you knew."
While Ledbetter undoubtedly received unjust treatment at the hands of her employer and, arguably, the nation's highest court, she did get some satisfaction when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, the first piece of legislation he signed into law. She'll be signing copies of her new book, "Grace & Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond."