The Lilly Ledbetter Act does not ensure women equal pay for equal work
posted at 11:35 am on May 8, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
If the presidential election were held today and voting was limited to women under 50, President Obama would be re-elected by a resounding margin. The president has led Mitt Romney in this demographic in virtually every significant poll since early April.
It was around this time that the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released its much-cited report on the gender-wage gap by occupation and ethnicity. The report states clearly in its initial paragraph that the female-to-male earnings ratio is 82.2%, but the administration and its media acolytes prefer the stat in a footnote indicating the 2010 value for this ratio: 77%.
Either way, it is clear is that women earn less for the same work. (Well, it is sort of clear. On Monday, FOX News’s Jim Angle took a closer look at these stats and wrote that it’s an “apples-to-oranges comparison” that fails to account for factors such as total weekly hours worked. In addition, there are tables within the report that reveal that for some professions—for example, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks—women earn slightly more than men—but Democrats can’t be bothered with contradictory data.)
The main Democratic talking points to be taken away from the report and communicated to female voters are that (1) women earn less than men for the same work and (2) only one of the two candidates for president finds this problematic. The blog Democrats.org tells you which candidate that is:
[T]his November, something no woman should have to ask for, much less fight for—equal pay—is at stake as voters face a choice between, as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz puts it, ‘a guy who gets it and a guy who doesn’t.’ The Republicans’ presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, won’t say whether he would have voted for basic legislation that would ensure women earn equal pay for equal work. [Emphasis added]
The legislation in question is, of course, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the signing of which was one of President Obama’s first acts in the Oval Office. The blog post quotes Ledbetter herself as saying “It’s unfortunate that Romney and the Republicans want to dismiss the facts and write their own version of reality.”
But to find out whose version of reality is really consistent with the facts, voters should have a look at the law itself, which is here. In brief, it amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck. Under the Ledbetter Act, the statute of limitations extends the statutory period. The act provides little relief for the litigant beyond the knowledge that she won’t need to refile with the court every 180 days until her suit is resolved. Her responsibility for legal fees and for making her case remains unchanged.
It is a point that the administration generally tiptoes around, though in “The Life of Julia,” they are a little careless, writing that at age 23, Julia “knows she’ll always be able to stand up for her rights to equal pay” thanks to Obama’s passage of the Ledbetter Act.
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