Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The Myth of Lilly Ledbetter

Not sure how many Washington Post readers consider Amy Goldstein a must-read but you’d at least think that her editors were reading her. In today’s Post, Ms. Goldstein is apparently pleased to report that, finally, the Democrats Overturn Barrier to Unequal-Pay Suits.

President Obama plans to sign into law tomorrow the first legislation of his White House tenure, reversing a recent Supreme Court ruling that had restricted the ability of women and other workers to sue for pay discrimination.”

(“…the ability of women and other workers…” Who, pray tell, might those other workers be?)

She is referring to the infamous Ledbetter case, decided in May 2007. You would hope that writers and their editors over at the Post would know enough about the workings of our government to recognize that Congress doesn’t (can’t) reverse Supreme Court decision. This piece of legislation does not reinstate Lilly Ledbetter’s trial court award meaning no court decision has been reversed.

Which Ms. Ledbetter recognizes, even if Ms. Goldstein doesn’t understand the significance of what she is reporting on:

Ledbetter said in an interview that she was "thrilled, thrilled." She said the Supreme Court's ruling means that she never will be able to claim the $360,000 she was awarded by a lower court.”

Ms. Goldstein further educates:

“The high court had held that such cases could be brought only within six months of the discrimination's beginning, rejecting a long-held interpretation by lower courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that each paycheck represented a fresh act of discrimination.”

It’s a bit disingenuous to emphasize the lower courts “long-held interpretation” without simoultaneously mentioning that the Supreme Court decision she refers to UPHELD a lower court (Eleventh Circuit) ruling against Ms. Ledbetter’s claims (although this is mentioned later in the article). And let’s recall that even Justice Ginsburg’s dissent notes that the EEOC brief on Ms. Ledbetter’s behalf only called for accepting her claims for 1997 and 1998.

Finally, if you’re going to discuss the facts of a case, do some independent reporting:

Several months before she retired in 1998 as a Goodyear area manager, Ledbetter found an anonymous note in her mailbox at work, tipping her off that she was being paid less than the men who held the same job.”

You mean tipping her off AGAIN, don't you? Here’s what she is not telling you:

“In 1982, Mrs. Ledbetter filed a complaint for sexual harassment against her supervisor. That complaint was settled between her and the company, Goodyear, in a timely fashion, and she was satisfied.

In 1992, Mrs. Ledbetter, under testimony, testified that she became aware she was being paid less than her peers, but she filed no complaint.

In 1993, she did not file a complaint.

In 1994, she did not file a complaint.

In 1995, Mrs. Ledbetter said:
I told him at that time that I knew definitely that they were all making a thousand at least more per month than I was and that I would like to get in line.
But she did not file a complaint.

In 1996, she did not file a complaint.

In 1997, she did not file a complaint.

And then on July 21, 1998, a complaint was filed, shortly after her supervisor died.” Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia

With all the commentary this case generated, you would think Ms. Goldstein could have had least listened to something beyond the Obama Camp spin.

Side Notes I: As I noted in July 2008:

Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, practically begs Congress to get involved:

“Once again, the ball is in Congress’ court. As in 1991, the Legislature may act to correct this Court’s parsimonious reading of Title VII.”

…highlighting once again one of my favorite points – the left is rarely constrained by Court decisions it doesn’t like; a simple legislative decision awaits.”

Side Notes II: For a more detailed review of the Ledbetter decision, check out the usually excellent Simon at Stubborn Facts: Ledbetter v. Goodyear

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