By Mary E. O’Leary, Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN — Lilly Ledbetter, 72, lost out during her working career with a lack of promotions and a lower paycheck than her male colleagues, but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to advocate for other women.
Ledbetter was in town Monday to address the need for Congress to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, in 1997. It has been passed twice by the House, but awaits Senate action.
After almost 20 years on the job, Ledbetter found out she had been paid 20 percent less than men doing the same work at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
She told a group gathered at the Graduate Club Monday morning that the working environment there, where only two women were hired, was pretty hostile, and she was repeatedly rebuffed by the personnel office when she sought information.
After a 10-year court battle, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the statute of limitations for an equal-pay lawsuit starts when the pay is agreed to, not the date of the most recent paycheck, as a lower court had found.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009, nullified that ruling and allows women who are discriminated against to sue as long as unequal pay continues.
DeLauro said the Paycheck Fairness Act is a necessary follow-up as it “would ensure that employers who try to justify paying a man more than a woman prove it is not sex-based, but job-related and necessary.”
She said it would prohibit discrimination against workers who disclose salary information and brings equal pay law into line with other civil rights laws.
DeLauro said women make up half the work force, and two-thirds are either heads of household or co-breadwinners. With women paid 78 cents on the dollar compared with men, the congresswoman said the disparity costs $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime.