The role of women in the workplace is undeniably an asset to companies across the country. Muti-tasking work, child rearing, caring for the home, taking the dog to the vet, etc., female workers file into their workplace each morning alongside male counterparts. The workplace is full of competent men and women, married and single. Men and women who are single parents trying to raise a family or single women trying to make their way in a male dominated world. The working world is always at odds with the corporate world over wages and benefits. Women add unfair pay to that equation.
We have been having a conversation in this country for decades over equal pay for equal work. There are those who contend men earn and deserve more pay simply because they put in more hours or have more experience. That may be true, but are women who work the same hours and have equal experience paid the same salary for their effort and experience? Most don’t know because what a person earns is usually not discussed openly. Women are still in a position of having to fight employers and the court system for their just rewards. On average, women make 75 cents to each dollar made by a man doing the same job with the same requirements.
In the past, women were slapped with the excuse that men deserved higher pay because they were considered to be the bread winner in the household. That may have been true at one time, but there have always been single female counterparts who toed the line equally to men. The matter of who brings home the bacon has nothing to do with paying hard working, dedicated employees who preform equal duties with shared experiences and expertise the same wage.
70 year old, Lilly Ledbetter, sued her former employer, Alabama Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for being discriminated against over equal pay while she was in their employment. She received almost $4,000 a month less than the lowest paid male area manager in the company. The Supreme Court tossed out her complaint in 2007 saying the statute-of-limitations had run out by the time she filed her lawsuit against the company. She only learned of the pay discrepancy when a former colleague sent her a note informing her of the pay difference. The Supreme Court decision was great news for employers around the country. This meant their female workers had no chance of challenging unfair pay practices as long as wages were kept confidential. Even if a female worker discovered unjust pay down the road, the statute-of-limitations would probably have passed before they found out about it and filed a complaint.
Why is this a big deal and why should women be concerned about unfair pay? Higher salaries give the individual more buying power, a better way of life. The more important reason is Social Security. Retirement benefits are calculated according to your earned income over the course of your working life. If you performed the same duties, had the same amount of experience, worked the same hours and years as a male in the same profession and you retired at the same time; your male counterpart will draw a larger monthly Social Security check than you. Pensions and 401(k) benefits are also affected by your salary. So unequal pay will follow women into their retirement years.
Women who enroll in college will pay the same college tuition fees as men. If she goes into a specific profession, she will by taught the same information and job requirements as her male classmates. The same qualifications and guidelines will be required when she applies for a job. Everything will be equal until the pay check arrives.
There are companies who treat men and women equally, no doubt about that, but there are organizations who do oppose equal wages for women. The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among those who oppose equal pay. America is suppose to be a land of equality for all. Apparently, some interpret that to mean equality for men only.
The Senate has passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which will overturn the Supreme Court decision which denied Mrs. Ledbetter her day in court. The House will review it for final consideration and President Obama will more than likely sign this legislation in the days to come.
This probably won’t break the glass ceiling for a lot of women nor will it erase the issue of equal pay for equal work. It will give women their right to sue an employer for pay discrimination even if the female worker doesn’t find out about it until years later. This bill is meant to ease the statute-of-limitations requirement that has stymied lawsuits in the past.
Katherine Skiba, Equal Work, Equal Pay, U.S. News & World Report