On 15th Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Ledbetter, Government Officials, Advocates Discuss Actions to Close Gender Wage Gaps

January 26. 2024


For Immediate Release
Jan 26, 2024

Media Contact
Jess Eagle
717-574-2702
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lilly Ledbetter, government officials, and a coalition of advocates for women’s and workers’ rights are commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Jan. 29, 2024. The occasion serves as both a celebration of progress and an acknowledgment of the work that remains to address persistent gender pay discrimination.

The first bill President Obama signed into law after taking office, the groundbreaking Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 corrected the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which held that employees had to bring pay discrimination cases soon after the employer began to discriminate, whether the employee knew about the discrimination or not. The decision overturned decades of established law that allowed employees to challenge discriminatory paychecks.

Ms. Ledbetter, who served as a manager at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. plant in Alabama for 19 years, sued for pay discrimination after learning that, over the course of her career, she had been paid significantly less than her male colleagues. While she lost at the Supreme Court, her case and the law that later corrected the Supreme Court decision sparked her ongoing commitment to addressing the gender wage gap.

While restoring the prior law was a major victory for the equal pay movement, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act did not give women new tools to challenge pay discrimination. Since then, a coalition of 45 organizations across the country known as Equal Pay Today has led campaigns to enact federal and state policies that would help women challenge pay discrimination and close the wage gaps that impact them and their families. Among them is the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that modernizes and updates the Equal Pay Act of 1963, including by protecting workers from retaliation for discussing their pay, banning the use of an applicant’s prior salary history to set their new pay, and codifying pay data collection. 

While Ledbetter and advocates continue to work on federal legislative solutions, they also are urging the Biden Administration to take action, including to finalize a ban on using prior salary history to set wages for federal workers and federal contractors. The proposal would end the practice of using an applicant’s prior pay to set new pay for federal employees and federal contracting applicants — a practice that enables pay discrimination to follow women and people of color from job to job.

Ms. Ledbetter discussed these issues with government officials and advocates in a webinar on Jan. 25. The recording is available here. Press are invited to quote speakers, crediting Equal Pay Today as the webinar host.

 

The following are quotes from Ms. Ledbetter, the Chair and Vice Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and leading fair pay advocates on the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:

Lilly Ledbetter, Fair Pay Champion:
“I am excited to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act with Equal Pay Today, my champions on the Hill and with the Administration, and so many old friends that worked to support me and this law. But I will not rest until we can enact more policies that give women stronger tools to challenge pay disparities and other forms of employment discrimination. That is why it is so important that Congress pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Until Congress acts, we hope that the agencies and Biden Administration will start collecting employer pay data again and stop the use of salary history when setting wages for federal workers and federal contractors. If there had been fairness in setting my wages or more transparency in salaries when I worked at Goodyear Tire, I would have been able to take home what I truly earned. We should want that for all workers. Until then, the fight continues.”

Charlotte A. Burrows, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
“On this 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we join Lilly and other trailblazers in celebrating how far we’ve come in the fight for equal pay and recognizing the work that still needs to be done. The EEOC’s new Strategic Enforcement Plan reaffirms our commitment to using all our tools — including education, outreach, enforcement, and litigation – to combat pay discrimination and advance pay equity for all.”

Jocelyn Samuels, Vice Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
“I’m so gratified to join this celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. As I know from my work with her 15 and more years ago, Lilly is a tenacious and passionate fighter for equal pay and a model for women – and men – across the country.  Her example will continue to inspire as we work to close the wage gap once and for all.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district:
“The mother of the Fair Pay movement, Lilly Ledbetter is the namesake of the Fair Pay Act that Congress passed in 2009, making gender-based pay discrimination unlawful. For decades, Lilly was shortchanged by her employer and paid less than men in the same job. She fought back and took her fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Lilly has shown strength and perseverance in the face of injustice. She is an inspiration to the entire equal pay movement. It is an honor to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Act with her. And it is why I am so proud to be leading the next step in the fight for pay equity—the Paycheck Fairness Act, because equal pay for equal work must be the law of the land. Thank you, Lilly, for leading the way.”

Deborah J. Vagins, Director of Equal Pay Today and National Campaign Director with Equal Rights Advocates:
“I was honored to work on the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 15 years ago. Lilly has been, and continues to be, a champion for all of us, and I am privileged to call her my friend. Her law was an important victory for workers and gave employees who were experiencing ongoing pay discrimination their day in court. Equal Pay Today is proud to celebrate this anniversary with Lilly, and to stand with her as we continue to fight for new tools that will address and eliminate pay disparities that so deeply impact women workers, particularly women of color, and their families. Equal Pay Today’s Policy Agenda highlights many of the new policies we need to close pay gaps, including bills like the federal Paycheck Fairness Act and executive branch policies like the EEOC’s pay data collection and the Administration’s proposed ban on the use of salary history when setting wages for federal workers and contractors. We are grateful to Lilly for continuing to fight for smart policies like these for the rest of us.”

Gloria L. Blackwell, CEO of American Association of University Women (AAUW):
“As we celebrate the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, AAUW extends our gratitude to Lilly for having the tenacity to pave the way towards reducing pay inequity. AAUW and our members will continue to work with the White House, Congress, and the states to advance policies that address the gender and racial wage gaps.”

Jocelyn C. Frye, President of National Partnership for Women & Families:
“Every person deserves a fair chance to fully participate and thrive in our economy, free from the barriers of discrimination and bias.  Yet too many women — and especially women of color — continue to experience pay disparities, unfair treatment in their employment, and the devaluation of their contributions in the workplace.  I am grateful for this opportunity to recognize the legacy of Lily Ledbetter’s groundbreaking advocacy and to use this anniversary to rededicate ourselves toward enacting strategies that advance pay equity and gender justice.”

Emily Martin, Chief Program Officer of National Women’s Law Center:
“Today we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the critical difference it has made for workers challenging discriminatory pay. Lilly’s story—and the Act that bears her name—highlights the power of transparency and accountability as tools for fighting pay disparities. Combatting pay discrimination and closing the wage gap remain crucial to the economic security of women, and we continue to advocate for additional policy solutions that are needed to achieve equal pay.”

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About Equal Pay Today

The mission of Equal Pay Today, a project at Equal Rights Advocates, is to eradicate the long-standing gender wage gap impacting the economic security of women, families, and communities of color. Through strategies involving policy reform, litigation, education and outreach, EPT’s innovative collaboration of national, regional, and state-based women’s legal advocacy, worker justice groups, and social justice organizations are changing conversations about equal pay at every opportunity.

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