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Recognizing Women’s History Month

written by Esther Bryant

Memorial of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Women's History Month

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A champion for women’s rights, a leader, the rebel with the infamous collar—all accurate ways to describe Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG helped to spearhead the fight for women’s equality, one dissent at a time. On this first day of Women’s History Month, it is important to remember a few key legal wins in history that Justice Ginsburg ultimately influenced through her role as a Supreme Court Justice. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 amended a few components of Title VII. The Equal Pay Act prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. See EEOC-NVTA-0000-13. In a nutshell, employers must pay men and women equally when they are performing the same work.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a case that involved years of discriminatory pay practices between the female plaintiff and her male coworkers who performed the same work. The Supreme Court ultimately held that Ms. Ledbetter was barred from bringing her claim because the pay practice started years before, precluding her claim, concluding that she should have filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within “180 days after each allegedly discriminatory employment decision was made and communicated to her.” Id. at 619.

Through her dissent, Justice Ginsburg explained that the Court’s decision overlooked common methods of discriminatory pay practices, in that pay disparities often occur in small increments and comparative pay information is often hidden from employees. Id. at 645. In essence, how would an employee know that she is not being paid fairly in enough time for her to file a charge of discrimination? Justice Ginsburg went on to argue that the Court’s “cramped interpretation” of Title VII contradicts the remedial purpose of the statute. Id. at 660.

With the help of Justice Ginsburg, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was pushed through and signed into law making each paycheck that contains discriminatory compensation a separate violation, so employees have 180 days to file a charge with the EEOC after each discriminatory paycheck, rather than from when the discrimination first occurred.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, should you have any questions about your employment—whether that be about equal pay, being treated less favorably in the terms, conditions, or benefits of employment, or you believe you have been wrongfully terminated and/or retaliated against because of your sex, contact the employment attorneys at Bryant Legal, LLC for a free and confidential initial phone consultation.

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