Friday, October 26, 2007

Supreme Court strips women of equal pay rights

This is an issue that we should all pay attention to in regards to equal rights. It is important to take action regarding equal rights and write to your congress woman/man and tell them that we are not putting up with this. A 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court means that this is not a unanimous decision and thus is not necessarily "good law". In essence, if we write to congress representatives they can take action to pass laws to prevent this from happening again.

Brigid McGuire

Issue date: 10/25/07
While some of us women were busy studying for midterms, editing research papers or just simply living our small lives here in Long Beach, the Supreme Court basically took away a woman's right to equal pay in the workplace.

According to an article in Ms. Magazine, Lily Ledbetter was stripped of her civil rights in the Supreme Court's Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Inc. 5-4 decision back in May, but nearly nobody noticed or cared.

The case tells how Ledbetter found out on the day of her retirement that she was getting paid 20 percent less then her male counterparts.

"Compared to those managers with similar experience, she was earning up to 40 percent less," the indictment read. This was after 19 years of service. Ledbetter was the only woman in her position.

Like any responsible woman, Ledbetter filed a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and stated that she was a victim of "pay discrimination."

She filed under Title VII, which covers discrimination in the workplace based on sex, race, national origin and religion. Things looked good in the beginning. Ledbetter won her lawsuit in Federal District Court and won a $3.6 million decision. Because of a faulty slanted appeal, she lost her award.

The Supreme Court changed its interpretation of the "180 days to file" provision to mean that a victim must file a complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the discriminatory salary dispute. Prior to the court shifting the rules, a victim could file a complaint within 180 days of every issued paycheck.

Now, with this six-month time limit, it gives the power to employers to pay women less and if keeps them quiet, they can get away with it.

I am sorry, but if Supreme Court Justices like Samuel Alito believe that six months is enough time to gather enough evidence to file a lawsuit, we're all in trouble.

How would a suspected victim even know that she is being paid less then her male co-workers? Does Alito expect an employer to send out a report with every employee's pay status to the entire company so everyone knows what everybody else is getting paid?

Unless that employer wants to start World War III, you can forget about that plan.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now the only woman on the Supreme Court, issued a dissent on the Ledbetter decision. She wrote, "This court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination ... Any annual pay decision not contested immediately (within 180 days), the Court affirms, becomes grandfathered, a fait accompli beyond the province of Title VII ever to repair."

This lost case is just another slap in the face at the women's movement in trying to gain an equal status with men in our patriarchal society. The Court is just telling women that if they get paid less than men, and they don't figure it out fast enough, then tough shit. Why should it even be a battle over who gets paid more? Excuse me for sounding like a communist, but remember the saying "Equal Pay for Equal Work?"

Being a victim of unequal treatment myself, I can tell you that it is one of the most humiliating experiences a person can go through. I worked for a major grocery store chain for three years, went through a six-month-long strike to save my job and was never given a promotion. Their first excuse was "she's too young," followed by "she's moving away to college so why waste the time." The final denial was, "Well, I did promise you that promotion, but now that the semester has started, it'll have to wait another 4 to 5 months."

After I heard that last sleazy excuse, I just walked out. If I knew what I know now, I would've taken it to the EEOC or my local union office. But after being beaten down for years, in the hope that I would eventually make $12 an hour, I had enough of the company and walked.

So my local college women, don't allow yourselves to be beaten down. Take control of your lives. Write to your local congresswoman/man and tell her or him that you want the Ledbetter ruling overturned.

Tell them it's because you want what is rightfully yours.

Brigid McGuire is a senior journalism major and the managing editor of Dig Magazine.
Daily 49er

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