Friday, April 25, 2008

Unequal pay for equal work is OK?

Having recently been the target of discrimination myself, I felt particular sympathy for Lilly Ledbetter's case. In a nutshell, she had been paid as much as 40% less than her male counterparts for years. When she was made aware of this fact, she sued her employer. A jury found in her favor, and the circuit courts upheld that decision upon appeal. But the John Roberts-led Supreme Court ignored precedent when they overturned the decision, not based on the merits of the case, but because she failed to bring suit within six months of the first act of discrimination. The Senate set out to right this egregious wrong with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, requiring equal pay for equal work, which Republicans blocked on Wednesday. The reason they gave was that this would bring about frivolous lawsuits and be harmful to business, and that the only people who would profit would be the litigators.

This rationale is unfair and irrational. I had a very close relationship with my colleagues at KickApps, and only found out that my male colleague was paid more than me for the same job - we'd even been promoted at the same time - after we'd both been there for just over a year. And that was because I asked him point blank. Realistically, employees don't know what their colleagues make. It's not the kind of a question that you can generally ask, particularly in the first six months of your employment. The Republicans' argument is tantamount to suggesting that so long as discrimination is kept a secret for at least six months, it's OK.

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