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  • President Obama's Misleading Account of Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Case

    In the second presidential debate, when the issue of equal pay for women came up, President Obama responded with an assertion that was flat-out wrong.

    He said that he signed the Lilly Ledbetter bill because the Supreme Court had ruled that Ledbetter, who claimed in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that she was paid less than her male co-workers, “couldn’t bring suit because she should have found out about [her lower pay] earlier, whereas she had no way of finding out about it.”

    PolitiFact, which claims that it checks the accuracy of statements, compounded this falsehood when it claimed that the Supreme Court had ruled that “the 180-day statute of limitations started from the day an employer made the decision to discriminate—making it impossible for employees who learned of such discrimination later to get relief.” (Emphasis added.)

    As Hans Bader at the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out in extensive detail, the Supreme Court said no such thing. It expressly left open the possibility that a claimant could sue after the 180-day time limit under Title VII (the federal anti-discrimination law) if the claimant did not discover the discrimination until later. The Supreme Court expressly stated that Ledbetter never raised this issue in her case: “We have previously declined to address whether Title VII suits are amenable to a discovery rule.… Because Ledbetter does not argue that such a rule would change the outcome in her case, we have no occasion to address this issue.” (Emphasis added.)

    In fact, the Supreme Court has a long precedent of recognizing the doctrines of equitable tolling and estoppel for individuals who do not discover an injury or where a defendant hides his misbehavior, which are exceptions to such legally imposed deadlines.

    But the distortions get worse. Obama also repeated another falsehood that has been current in the mythical narrative advanced by Ledbetter and the press in her case. Ledbetter has claimed publicly that she missed the deadline for filing her claim because she didn’t know she was being discriminated against until two decades after she started working at the company. As has been pointed out by Bader, Paul Mirengoff of Powerline, and Stuart Taylor of National Journal, Ledbetter admitted in her own deposition that she knew her “pay was extremely low” compared to her colleagues for many years prior to when she filed suit. She admitted that a superior told her in 1992 that she was being paid less than her peers.

    Yet, after she lost her case, she and her supporters suddenly started claiming that Ledbetter never knew about the lower pay until the end of her career at Goodyear. That was a complete fabrication that no doubt sounded good in the public relations arena for the purposes of making the case for the Lilly Ledbetter bill.

    Another important fact that President Obama’s account avoided was that Ledbetter also failed to assert a claim under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), which has a longer deadline (three years in most suits) than Title VII for filing suit. As the Supreme Court pointed out, because Ledbetter had abandoned any claim under the EPA, she was asking the Court “to deviate from our prior decisions in order to permit her to assert her claim under Title VII.” It was clear that if “Ledbetter had pursued her EPA claim, she would not face the Title VII obstacles that she now confronts.”

    And by the way, as pointed out by James Sherk and Emily Goff, the claim that women are paid less than men doesn’t hold water. In fact, once you adjust for occupational choice, education, experience, and other legitimate factors that affect pay, the gender gap essentially disappears.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to President Obama's Misleading Account of Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Case

    1. Bobbie says:

      The democrats mislead every bit of truth for a pity party!! All businesses make reasonable exceptions to the female gender in the work place and men and women all receive equal starting pay! Remember when Jesse Jackson was so adamant that there wasn't black race car drivers? No one was discriminated against! The interest isn't there as if Jesse wants force on black people to race to meet the government color quota agenda? What happened to democrats? All they do is look for something to pity and exploit for government control and they don't care who they put down to do it. Just smile! Now the democrats are talking about Romney's binders of qualified women? Saying there were more in the beginning of his term as if he fired them for being women? Not considering they chose to leave on their own? When a democrat speaks do yourself a favor and realize they're generalizations don't come close to the truth and give truth a chance! Lilly fought her own but once it's law it eliminates personal justice in case things go wrong anyway.

      Democrat strategy: spin all matter to victimize the populace. Convince women to have "reproductive rights" added to government legislation!?? This government doesn't want women's health governed in our control as much as they're telling us subconsciously it will be beyond our control under government legislation, ladies!

      Do we really want reproductive rights that are there without saying, defined by men in legislative bureaucracies? Do you really trust that democrats want "reproductive rights" defined word for word as if a favor? And when they leave a significant word out costing more time and trouble? Ladies democrats are the ones that want to take control away!

      Whoever is showing their naked bodies in an ad against the republican plan are total fools and activist tools. Walking women right into the government control trap. Please don't follow them! We are women better and above that.

      Why in the last three years, would my community out of the clear blue, send out an ad for free mammograms with $20 cash to add? Because the health care industry is desperate and women are treated by the democratic party as second class citizens! Don't fall for this ignorance. We can make up our minds with the counsel of our doctors excluding government bullies telling us we need government bullies. Obamacare is dangerous! If you want your health care in your control, you want the Romney ticket or Obama and the democrats wouldn't lie to us! They mislead equal pay they mislead health care just to gain government control and further crisis. Don't repeat the democratic scare tactics. Seek out the truth!

    2. Hans Bader says:

      Contrary to her later claims, Ledbetter learned of the pay disparity she later claimed was discrimination by 1992, as excerpts from her deposition, filed in the Supreme Court as part of the Joint Appendix, make clear. In response to the question: "So you knew in 1992 that you were being paid less than your peers?" she answered simply "yes, sir." (See Joint Appendix at pg. 233; page 123 of Ledbetter's deposition). But she only filed a legal complaint over it in July 1998, shortly before her retirement in November 1998. See Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 550 U.S. 618, 621 (2007).

      Her lengthy delay in suing may have prejudiced the company. By the time her case was tried, the supervisor she accused of sexism had died, leaving the company hard pressed to defend itself due to her delay in suing. (The Supreme Court's opinion in Ledbetter v. Goodyear noted that her supervisor had died by the time her case went to trial, in footnote 4 of its opinion.).

    3. David Nova says:

      this just looks like RW sour grapes to me. obama's remark was consistent with ginsburg's dissent, which you totally ignore.

    4. guest says:

      I'm sorry–the last paragraph totally discredits this author. "Equal pay for equal work" is a completely different topic from the "gender gap". God, I hate when topics are melded to distort statistics.

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