Women need equal pay in work force

Published 10:26 pm Monday, October 15, 2012

One of the basic premises we hold as Americans is the belief in equality. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” However, our policies and laws have not always followed our ideals.

Initially, women and African Americans were denied several basic rights, including the right to vote and to receive an education. But from the women’s suffrage movement following World War 1 and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, we have made a lot of progress in this country. Despite the progress that we’ve made, inequality continues to persist in our society.

Did you know that women in this country only make 77.4 percent as much as men working the same jobs? In the 1990s, Lilly Ledbetter, who had worked for 19 years at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Ala., filed a lawsuit against the company on the grounds that she was paid significantly less than the men who held the same position. Her lawsuit eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court denied her claim. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that because the discriminatory decisions relating to pay had been made more than 180 days prior to the date Ms. Ledbetter filed her lawsuit, the statue of limitations had expired.

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This decision led to a couple of attempts by congressional democrats to change the law. In 2008, democrats tried to pass a law that would’ve overturned the court’s ruling; Republicans in Congress opposed it, arguing that it would encourage lawsuits and employees could delay filing claims in the hope of reaping bigger rewards. That bill was defeated.

Then, democrats in the U.S. Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. While the legislation does not allow Lilly Ledbetter to re-file her claim or receive any financial compensation for the discrimination against her, it does protect current and future workers against discrimination.

While the Ledbetter Act is a huge step in the right direction to protect women in the workplace, there is more that can and should be done. Legislators are considering a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act that. This bill will help break down the barriers that still exist despite the Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Despite the progress we have made in America, inequality still exists. It’s shocking there is still a gender-based wage gap. Women working the same job should be paid the same amount. The Lilly Ledbetter Act is a step in the right direction, but there is more we can do to fix this injustice. I encourage you to contact Congresswoman Terri Sewell and other members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation and ask them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.