Women Who Inspire Us: Lilly Ledbetter
Women's Health Monthly: March 2017
March is Women's History Month, and this year's focus is on honoring trailblazing women in business and labor. We're inspired by Lilly Ledbetter, an equal pay activist whose story shows what can be accomplished when you just keep fighting for what you believe.
Ledbetter started working at a Goodyear tire factory in 1979 and was one of few women on the factory floor. Almost two decades later, in 1998, she learned that had been paid significantly less than men doing the same job throughout her career.
She filed a sex discrimination case—Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire &Rubber Co.—which went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2007. She lost in a 5-4 opinion arguing that she was required to file her case within 180 days of receiving her first discriminatory paycheck.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who dissented, encouraged her to keep fighting and she did. She became an outspoken advocate for pay equity and women's rights.
Her work led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law in 2009. The law loosens time restrictions on filing discrimination cases, resetting the 180-day filing period each time discrimination occurs.
Ledbetter's commitment to and impact on pay equity are remarkable. As she said the day the Fair Pay Act passed, "There was nothing I wouldn't do, no matter how dirty or hard."