Contact Information for Lilly Ledbetter:
If you wish to make a memorial donation for her husband, Charles, who passed away in December 2008, contact the First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 400, Jacksonville 36265.
Lilly Ledbetter's Personal Life and Family:
Her husband, CSM Charles J. Ledbetter (U.S. Army ret.), was a highly-decorated veteran. Sadly, he passed away December 11, 2008 at the age of 73 and did not live long enough to see President Obama sign The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 into law on January 29, 2009.
Now 70, Lilly lives in Jacksonville, Alabama on a small pension and like many Americans worries about losing her home.
Lilly Ledbetter, A Humble, New American Icon:
The Supreme Court stated she had taken too long to file a complaint. This decision, which made it easier for employers to get away with wage discrimination practices, would become a hotly contested legal issue by both Democrats and Republicans: McCain had "Joe the Plumber" and Obama had "Lilly Ledbetter."
A Hard Worker Despite Tough Conditions:
In 2007, she testified before Congress about her EEOC complaint about a supervisor who demanded sexual favors if she wanted good job performance reviews. He was reassigned, but asserting her rights only made things worse and led to isolation, further sexual discrimination, and retaliation against Ledbetter.
Lilly's Anonymous Angel:
When she filed a complaint with the EEOC she was subsequently assigned to lift heavy tires. She was in her 60s at the time but she continued to perform the tasks her ruthless employer required of her.
Why What She Did Mattered:
Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that to have legal standing, a person must file a complaint within 180 of the first discriminatory pay practice - even if they did not know about it until much later. This allowed employers to get away with underpaying workers based on color, sex, or other discriminatory reasons as long as workers did not know about it and take legal immediate action.
A Selfless Cause:
Ledbetter, a humble woman, challenged laws that did not protect workers from discrimination even though she herself would never directly benefit from her efforts.
In Lilly's Own Words:
"I am in Washington this week, going from Senate office to Senate office to build support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - legislation that bears my name. I would never have guessed this is what I would be doing at this point in my life!
"I worked hard at Goodyear, and was good at my job. But with every paycheck, I got less than I deserved and less than the law says I am entitled to.
"It [the Supreme Court decision] was a step backward, and a terrible decision not just for me but for all the women who may have to fight wage discrimination."
Lilly Ledbetter Cannot Benefit From the New Law, But Other Women Can:
Lilly reports at age 70 she still lives “paycheck to paycheck” (her retirement wages are based on the discriminatory wages she was paid). "I will be a second-class citizen for the rest of my life... It affects every penny I have today."(1)
But as she headed to Washington, D.C. for the signing of the new law bearing her name she enthusiastically stated, "I'm just thrilled that this has finally passed and sends a message to the Supreme Court: You got it wrong."(2)
Time Line of Legal Events in Lilly Ledbetter vs. Goodyear:
1979 - November 1998: Lilly worked as an area manager for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company at its Gadsden, Alabama plant.
March 1998: Ledbetter submitted a questionnaire to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) inquiring about salaries.
July 1998: Submitted formal EEOC charge. Two key claims asserted by Ledbetter: a Title VII pay discrimination claim and a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), 29 U. S. C. §206(d).
After she filed a complaint, Ledbetter, then in her 60's, was reassigned to lift heavy tires; clearly an act of retribution by Goodyear.
The District Court allowed some of Ledbetter's claims, including her Title VII pay discrimination claim to proceed to trial. But the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Goodyear on several of her claims, including her Equal Pay Act claim.
November 1998: Ledbetter retired early and filed suit "asserting, among other things, a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
A jury awarded Ledbetter about $3.3 million, but the amount was later reduced to around $300,000.
- November 2006 - May 2007: Goodyear appealed to the U.S. Supreme court who overturned the lower court's ruling in favor of Goodyear. In a 5-4 vote it was decided that Ledbetter was not entitled to compensation because she filed her claim more than 180 days after receiving her first discriminatory paycheck. (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618; R048; No. 05-1074; Argued 11/27/06; Decided 05/29/07.
- January 2009: The battle continued with several bills being introduced to change the law. On January 29, 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
- What Does The Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009 Means to Workers and Employers? Who is Lilly Ledbetter?
- The 2007 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling That Gave Employers the Power to Discriminate
- Is the Lilly Ledbetter Act Really a Trial Lawyer's Dream?
- Profiles of Influential Women - Personal Biography of Lilly Ledbetter
(1)Birmingham News, January 23, 2009
(2)Birmingham News, January 28, 2009