Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Supreme Court Decision on Pay Discrimination

This has to be one of the most bone-headed legal decisions ever made: Justices' Ruling Limits Suits on Pay Disparity. A woman who was consistently given lower raises than her male counterparts didn't discover this fact until she'd been at her job for over 20 years. She then sued her employer, Goodyear, and won. However, the company appealed and the Supreme Court just reversed earlier decisions awarding her back pay and punitive damages, because she could not show that she had been discriminated against in the most recent 180 days. That is a pretty limited interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states employees have to make an accusation of discrimination within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” You could argue that her most recent paycheck was an event of the unlawful employment practice, or even that each day of work for which she is being paid was such an event, but a majority of the justices would not agree.
This really seems absurd. I've been working at my current job for several years and have no idea what anyone makes, and any efforts to find out would surely be frowned on by HR. So if I discovered tomorrow that all the men made 10 times more than women in equivalent jobs, I'd have no legal recourse because I hadn't somehow dug up that information in my first 6 months of employment?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that Congress take action against this decision, and apparently Hillary Clinton has already submitted a bill to do so.


mapgirl said...

Yeah this is completely insane. You can be fired for polling your workers on what they make because no one is supposed to know what anyone else makes. It's ridiculous then to burden the plaintiff with that kind of proof when that activity will get her fired from her job.


However, her complaint is totally valid. I heard her on the radio this morning and the injustice of it is frightening. Think about it. A $10K difference over 20 years of service means your pension will be less, your Social Security will be less, your available discretionary income for saving will be less! Makes me completely bonkers thinking about the unfairness. WHY DO THEY PUT THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THE INDIVIDUAL LIKE THIS ONLY TO THREATEN THEM WITH FIRING?

Ok. Sorry for yelling like that.

Nina Tottenberg had an analysis on NPR today about SCOTUS and that their opinions are referencing older cases that were overturned more recently. Just a sign of why we need to pay attention to who is nominated. (Sorry to get political on you. Feel free to delete this comment.)

Chitown said...

My goodness...This is the danger of not being careful of who you put in office. You have to think about the broader implications on how the laws will be interpreted by a male dominated and conservative court.

Strange Bird said...

ARGH! This is disgusting.

Bitty said...


Money IS political. A court with eight women and one man would have taken about 3 minutes to decide this case. And those three minutes would have been spent on formalities.

Anonymous said...

It was the right decision for the Supreme Court whose job it is to "Apply the Law".

If the 180 days is a bad law then Congress can try to change it. However if the Court were made of 8 women that took 3 minutes to decide the case on how they "feel" we would have more problems than we already have.

I guess Bitty believes that women justices are unable to interpret and apply the law and would go on how they feel.

Madame X said...

I don't think anyone's "feelings" need to be involved to believe that applying the law, even with its current wording, should have favored the plaintiff. That is about common sense, not emotion.

sf mom said...

If you go to, you can send a petition to your congressperson to help change the law.

Check it out.