Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ledbetter Questions

Writing in National Journal, Stuart Taylor raises questions about the Ledbetter fair pay case and the new law:

But some critical facts -- ignored by the media and Congress -- belie their portrayal of the case, as detailed in my June 9, 2007, column.

First, Ledbetter waited more than five years after learning that she was paid substantially less than most male co-workers to file her Title VII claim for back pay, compensatory, and punitive damages. Second, by that time a key supervisor -- whom she belatedly accused of holding down her pay raises after she rejected his sexual advances -- had died. Third, Ledbetter chose not to pursue a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which has a much longer time limit (three years) than Title VII but does not (yet) provide for big-bucks damage awards.

Fourth, her years of poor performance evaluations, plus repeated layoffs that affected her eligibility for raises, convinced a federal magistrate judge (although not the jury) that her relatively low pay did not prove sex discrimination. Maybe Ledbetter was a victim of discrimination, as the jury found. Maybe not. The evidence is too stale to allow for a confident conclusion -- which is one reason the justices ruled against her.

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