Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Equal Pay for Equal Work is so FemiNazi!

The damage that W has done to the Supreme Court is not going away when he finally leaves office. We are stuck with this new SCOTUS and to remind you how bad it is, here is the latest ruling from the Roberts court: "Justices' Ruling Limits Suits on Pay Disparity." Any employee who finds out that she has been the victim of discrimination in pay, cannot seek remedies if she had not filed a complaint with a federal agency within 180 days that the pay was set.

I don't know about you, dear readers, but I have not been fortunate enough to get any information from my employers on what my colleagues make. I don't see how the magical number of 6 months will be the ticket to discovering that I am being discriminated against, do you?

Equal pay for equal work is a such a uncontroversial value. And yet, this court has decided to jettison it, thumb its nose at women and minorities who are being discriminated against, and say "you had 6 months to file a report, too bad . . . ." What comfort that the Roberts court has the interests of the employer at heart; not enough government officials seem to worry about the rights of corporations these days.

It must be lonely to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

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.

Some hope (not much):

The impact of the decision on women may be somewhat limited by the availability of another federal law against sex discrimination in the workplace, the Equal Pay Act, which does not contain the 180-day requirement. Ms. Ledbetter initially included an Equal Pay Act complaint, but did not pursue it. That law has additional procedural hurdles and a low damage cap that excludes punitive damages. It does not cover discrimination on the basis of race or Title VII’s other protected categories.

In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg invited Congress to overturn the decision, as it did 15 years ago with a series of Supreme Court rulings on civil rights. “Once again, the ball is in Congress’s court,” she said. Within hours, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, announced her intention to submit such a bill.

UPDATE: Check out Scott's analysis of the decision at LGM. Here is an excerpt:

Despite this, and contrary to the judgment of the EEOC, the Court by a bare 5-4 majority threw out the discrimination claim she brought under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court--in an opinion, natch, written by its arch-reactionary newest member--argued that Ledbetter failed to challenge the initial discriminatory pay decision within the required 180 days, and the ongoing pay discrimination did not constitute an "unlawful employment practice." As Ginsburg points out, this reading of the statute makes little sense; unlike a single discrete act such as a firing, an employee may not be aware of the discriminatory nature of their pay until much later, and moreover it is illogical to hold that only an initial decision to discriminate but not the discriminatory pay itself constitutes an unlawful practice. The effect of the case is to insulate employers from wage discrimination claims as long as they can hide the evidence from the employee being discriminated against for 180 days, a result contrary to the purpose of the statute that is in no way compelled by its language.
Check out Amanda on this too.