Equal Pay/Fair Wage

Maloney and Ginsburg Parry High Court Ruling

Friday, June 1, 2007

The only woman on the Supreme Court called on Congress to come up with a law to counteract this week's majority ruling on gender-based pay discrimination. New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney has done just that.

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Rep. Carolyn Maloney

(WOMENSENEWS)--Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and the only woman on the Supreme Court have both vigorously responded to the U.S. Supreme Court's May 29 ruling against a woman's claims of gender-based pay discrimination by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

The court ruled against a female employee of the Akron, Ohio, company because she did not file her claim within a 180-day limit stipulated by current civil rights law. The decision is expected to uphold stringent time limits on claims based on race, sex, religion or national origin and limit opportunities for legal responses to discrimination.

In a biting oral dissent read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called on Congress to enact legislation to correct the high court's "parsimonious reading" of pay inequity claims.

Ginsburg's words spurred Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York--already outraged by news of the decision--to do just that.

Maloney said Wednesday that she will introduce a bill next week to enhance the ability of women and others to gain protection from the courts for discrimination in the workplace.

Maloney's bill will provide that every pay period that fails to correct previous discrimination constitutes a new infraction, allowing employees who discover discrimination long after the initial incident to challenge their employer.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton--who in March reintroduced with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the Paycheck Fairness Act to firm up federal enforcement of equal-pay mandates--also said Congress would respond to the high court's ruling. "It is my hope that Congress can remove the technical hurdles that will prevent individuals from receiving what is rightfully theirs," Clinton said.

Time Limit Criticized

The Supreme Court's strict ruling has spurred widespread criticism of the time limit provision since salary information is usually kept confidential in workplaces, hindering employees' ability to detect wage bias.

The Clinton-DeLauro bill--which is in committee and has been repeatedly considered since 1999--addresses this by requiring employers to provide information about salaries to help victims of discrimination identify disparities sooner. However, it would not directly reset the clock. The Supreme Court ruled this week that claims for discriminatory pay must be filed within 180 days from the date the person learns of the discriminatory act.

Maloney's bill is still being drafted so her aides could not discuss the details of the legislation; it is unclear whether the bill would have changed the outcome of the case decided by the Supreme Court.

That case involves Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear assembly plant in Gadsden, Ala., who claimed her wages were $6,500 a year less than her lowest paid male counterpart and that, after 19 years on the job, the difference created a serious cumulative gap.

While Ledbetter and a male colleague with equal seniority began with equal salaries, she argued, 15 years later her annual salary was $15,000 lower.

Ledbetter learned of her pay disparity when she received in 1998 an anonymous letter detailing salaries at the plant. Within a month she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency charged with resolving workplace discrimination complaints.

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