Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SCOTUS Ruling Limits Suits on Pay Discrimination

The George Bush-tainted Supreme Court (with his addition of Roberts and Alito) has delivered another blow to workers' rights. The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that employees may not bring suit under the principal federal anti-discrimination law unless they have filed a formal complaint with a federal agency within 180 days after their pay was set.

The decision came in a case involving a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., the only woman among 16 men at the same management level, who was paid less than any of her colleagues, including those with less seniority. She learned that fact late in a career of nearly 20 years — too late, according to the Supreme Court’s majority.

The New York Times article continues:
In a vigorous dissenting opinion that she read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.

An initial disparity, even if known to the employee, might be small, Justice Ginsburg said, leading an employee, particularly a woman or a member of a minority group “trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment” to avoid “making waves.” Justice Ginsburg noted that even a small differential “will expand exponentially over an employee’s working life if raises are set as a percentage of prior pay.”

Ms. Ledbetter’s salary was initially the same as that of her male colleagues. But over time, as she received smaller raises, a substantial disparity grew. By the time she brought suit in 1998, her salary fell short by as much as 40 percent; she was making $3,727 a month, while the lowest-paid man was making $4,286
plez sez: this ruling would seem to have a devastating effect on women and minorities in industries where their numbers have traditionally been under-represented (financial sector, technology sector, upper-level management, c-level management, etc.). we live in a culture where a tremendous amount of ego and self is associated with one's salary; there is an unwritten rule that people do not talk about their salary. as illustrated by this case, Ledbetter was at Goodyear for close to 20 years, drawing far less in salary to her male counterparts. i'll be honest, i have no idea what the counterparts at my job are currently making, and i'd be well past the 180 day mark if i chose to contest it.

this is different from those (like the Justices) who are employed by the government, because those salaries are common knowledge; it is much less common in private industry for salaries to be divulged or discussed. this SCOTUS ruling (the 180 day rule) gives workers a clear disadvantage when it comes to uncovering disparity in pay. we can only hope that Congress will address this issue in upcoming legislation.


Jay said...

I just can't believe that this ruling is actually following the law. I think it's one of those strange interpretations of some obscure law that extremists love to pull out of their asses. Unfortunately these extremists are on the Supreme Court.

In any event this is something that could quickly be resolved by the Democratic Congress. Bush might veto it, but that would probably work in the Dems favor in the long run.

plez... said...

it's funny that the Bush Administration loves to blather about "activist judges" when at every opportunity he has nominated an activist judge to the Supreme Court (except for that lapse of judgement when he sent his girlfriend's name - Harriet Meyers - up for consideration! *smile*

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

This law "grandfathers in" inequality. If this Supreme Court were around at the end of slavery, slaves would have had to petition for their freedom within 180 days or forever remain slaves for the rest of their lives!

This is the end of equity at the US Supreme Court and the institution of a justice-blind formalism for the simple purpose of reordering society in favor of the ruling class and white male supremacy. Isn't that George H. W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas in the first place? Wasn't that always the purpose of appointing Scalia, Alito and Roberts?

This court obligates women to bring the fetus to full term and then denies women the income to take care of those children. Welcome to the conservative utopia.

plez... said...

we're going to be "stuck" with this court for almost another generation as the next 2 presidents may not have the opportunity to make any nominations to the SCOTUS.

Anali said...

This is a sign of more things to come unless we can get a Democrat elected for two terms, who can appoint some more Supreme Court Justices.