Women's Rights Activist Lilly Ledbetter to Speak at Daemen College April 22
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Provides the Right of Equal Pay for Equal Work
First Bill Signed into Law by President Obama
April 4, 2013
Contact: Mike Andrei
Information: Daemen Conference & Events Office
Lilly Ledbetter, whose efforts to establish equal pay for men and women resulted in President Barack Obama’s first piece of legislation – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – will speak at Daemen College April 22, 2013.
Ledbetter will speak at 7:30 p.m., in Wick Center on the Daemen campus, 4380 Main Street, in Amherst. Her talk is free and open to the public. Following her presentation, she will sign copies of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (by Lilly Ledbetter with Lanier Scott), which chronicles Ledbetter’s incredible life. Copies of the book will be on sale after the event.
“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act – we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” President Obama noted at the signing ceremony in the White House January 29, 2009.
“Lilly Ledbetter has become an internationally known women’s rights activist and an energetic and inspirational advocate for change,” said Daemen President Dr. Gary A. Olson. “She reflects Daemen College’s deep commitment to equality and civil rights.”
To enable workers to more effectively challenge unequal pay, the law amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so that unfair pay complaints can be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck – and that 180 days resets after each paycheck is issued.
Ledbetter has become a women’s rights activist and an energetic and effective advocate for change, traveling the country to urge women and minorities to claim their civil rights.
Lilly Ledbetter was born in a house with no running water or electricity in the small town of Possum Trot, Alabama. She believed that she was destined for something more, and in 1979, with two young children at home and over the initial objections of her husband Charles, Ledbetter applied for her dream job at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Factory in Gadsden, Alabama. The only women she had seen there were secretaries in the front offices where she had submitted her application. But she got the job—one of the first women hired at the management level.
Though she faced daily gender prejudice and sexual harassment, Ledbetter pressed onward, believing that eventually things would change. Nineteen years after her first day at Goodyear, Lilly received an anonymous note revealing that she was making thousands less per year than the men in her position. Determined to challenge this, she filed a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, which she won – and then lost on appeal. Over the next eight years, her case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she lost again: the Court ruled that she should have filed suit within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck – despite the fact that she had no way of knowing that she was being paid unfairly during those years.
In a dramatic moment as the Supreme Court rendered its verdict, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, urging Ledbetter to fight back. Justice Ginsberg’s statement read, in part:
"Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest, $5,236."
Ledbetter addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, receiving loud ovations and applause. She never received restitution from Goodyear, but she has said, "I'll be happy if the last thing they say about me after I am gone is that I made a difference."