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Lilly Ledbetter

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Lilly Ledbetter"

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Ledbetter

I’m not sure I’ve blogged about Lilly Ledbetter’s case before, and if I have I haven’t done so very much, but watching her convention talk was a stark reminder of exactly how absurd the Supreme Court ruling that made her famous was. If you didn’t hear her talk, the point is that she worked for many years at Goodyear Tire. One day, she found persuasive evidence that she’d been the victim of illegal wage discrimination on account of being a woman. She sued. She won before a jury. But after a series of appeals a 5-4 Supreme Court decision let Goodyear off the hook on the theory that her suit had been filed too late — she needed, they said, to have filed her claim within 180 days of the first instance of illegal discrimination even though she wasn’t aware that it was occurring at the time. As The Los Angeles Times editorialized back in April:

As a narrow reading of the law, that’s all well and good. But as a prescription for redressing harm — the intent, after all, of anti-discrimination law — the court’s approach is impossibly binding. Most cases of discrimination, including the one before the court in Ledbetter, are difficult to discern at once, for the simple reason that most discrimination is covert. In the case of Lilly Ledbetter, a jury found that her employers had unfairly paid her less than male colleagues over a period of years. When Ledbetter discovered the disparity, she sued, but it was years after the initial discrimination, so five justices of the Supreme Court stood on a sterile legal principle in order to deny justice.

At any rate, even if you accept the conservative justices’ theory that their perverse reading of the existing law is correct, that points to the need to change the law. Which is exactly what their was a move to do in congress, but it’s been filibustered by the Senate Republicans and so, basically, if you want to get away with illegal discrimination you just need to make sure you can cover it up for at least 180 days.

Ledbetter’s not a political professional, but her story’s pretty compelling and important and one kind of wonders why so many Senate Republicans think it’s so important to help companies get away with illegal discrimination. Or as Jonah Goldberg put it:

Wow, she was even worse than Sebelius. Tootsie with a southern accent. I burst into laughter when they started playing “I’m so excited” after she finished.

I like that stuff so much better than Bill Kristol’s fake feminism.

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