Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer Goodyear 11 years ago because she found out she was not being paid as well as men in the same positions. But the Supreme Court threw out the case because she did not file it within six months of when the discrimination had occurred.
I just saw her on television standing next to President Obama when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which according to this story in the Washington Post will “[expand] the time frame in which workers can sue for discrimination they have experienced based on gender, race, national origin or religion.”
Lilly Ledbetter won’t be able to try again for her lost wages, but American women in the future will have a fair chance to hold their employers accountable for equity in pay. This is another example of ways we need to reform our laws to make them more equitable for women, decreasing the ways that women can be disadvantaged in society.
Legal reform has been a priority for Oxfam America’s program in southern Africa for years, and we have helped women in Mozambique and Zimbabwe write new laws on domestic violence, land ownership, and even the definition of a family so that women have the same rights as men. In El Salvador, Oxfam is part of an ambitious campaign to end violence against women, which includes looking at policies that can make society safer for everyone.
Lilly’s legislation will help end wage discrimination. However we in the US need to keep looking at how to ensure laws and policies are equitable and can help re-align the power dynamics between men and women. Just as new legislation in southern Africa and the campaign in El Salvador are just steps towards making a difference for women in the future, the US must keep working towards gender equity as well.