(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama, keeping a campaign pledge, signed a law Thursday to make it easier to sue employers for pay discrimination.
In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, Obama spoke as Lilly Ledbetter – a former Goodyear Tire manager from Alabama, whose case inspired the new law – stood beside him.
“While this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn’t just about her,” Obama said. “It is a story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every $1 men earn, women of color even less, which means that today in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income, and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.”
Women who worked on Obama’s Senate staff last year, however, were themselves paid on average 78 cents for every dollar a man was paid, according to data last year from the Report of the Secretary of the Senate.
The data, analyzed by CNSNews.com, showed that in the period from Oct. 1, 2007, through March 31, 2008, Obama paid women on his Senate staff an annual average salary of $44,953.21. That was $12,472 less than the $57,425 average annual salary that then-Sen. Obama paid men. (See Previous Story)
Obama’s Senate staff was comparable to other employers, according to the Census Bureau, which reported last year, “The median annual earnings of women 16 or older who worked year-round full time in 2006: Women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.”
The data from both the Census Bureau and the Secretary of the Senate are based on gender without regard to job position, experience, or education that could be factors in pay.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act applies to both the public and private sector, which would cover the executive and legislative branches of government, Aaron Albright, spokesman for the House Committee on Education and Labor, previously told CNSNews.com.
Specifically, the law moves the current statute of limitations for a discrimination suit from 180 days after the discrimination began to whenever the last paycheck was issued.
The legislation was named after Ledbetter, who was a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Gadsden, Ala., and sued for pay discrimination before retiring after 19 years because she had made $6,500 less per year than the lowest paid male supervisor.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out her case, saying she waited too long to file a complaint. The court said that under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an employee must sue within 180 days of a decision regarding pay, if alleged discrimination is involved. Ledbetter spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August.
Obama, before signing the bill into law, mentioned his grandmother and daughters and praised Ledbetter for continuing her fight that would help future generations. He said the legislations allowed the country to live up to its founding principles that all are created equal.
“Equal pay is by no means just a women’s issue,” Obama said. “It’s a family issue. It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care, couples who wind up with less to retire on, households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves. It’s the difference between affording the mortgage or not, between keeping the heat on or paying the doctor bills.”
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