A Year After Ledbetter -- What’s Next for Fair Pay for Women?
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For almost twenty years, I got paid less than my co-workers. I was a woman doing the same work as the men on my team — and apparently, my gender was all the excuse my employers at a Goodyear tire plant needed to cut my paychecks. My salary was far lower, and I got lower raises – over and over again.
But one year ago today, to my amazement, the President signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, which restored the law to make sure workers can go to court to protest pay discrimination.
And now it’s time for the next step. The right to go to court is important, but it isn’t enough. We need to do more to keep women from being discriminated against in the first place.
We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bill gives teeth to the protections against pay discrimination. And women, who are still shortchanged in the workplace, deserve just that. The bill would empower women to negotiate for equal pay, create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also strengthen penalties for equal pay violations.
But from where I sit, one of the most important aspects of the Paycheck Fairness Act is a provision that would prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages to co-workers. This would have been particularly helpful to me, because Goodyear prohibited my colleagues and me from talking about our wages. This policy delayed my discovery of the pay inequities between my male counterparts and me by — literally — decades.
For the past year, I’ve been speaking out to build up support of this bill, with the help of my friends at the National Women’s Law Center.
The bill has already passed the House, and now it’s up to the Senate. It is time to improve the law, not just restore it. You can count on my continued commitment to passing this Act and to ensuring that women will some day, as the President called for in his State of the Union, truly have equal pay for equal work.
Lilly Ledbetter, a volunteer and mother of two, resides in Jacksonville, Alabama.