Better than Flowers or Cake—President Obama Collects Data for Ledbetter 7th Anniversary

At a White House event today marking the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama announced that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in partnership with the Department of Labor, will annually collect summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees.
photo (1)Lilly Ledbetter herself was on hand for the anniversary celebration (see evidence to the left, with yours truly). But why should Lilly Ledbetter care about this anniversary gift you ask? Wasn’t her Supreme Court case and the resulting Ledbetter Fair Pay Act about clarifying that the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims resets with each discriminatory paycheck? Yes, but the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act only solved part of the problem.
For close to two decades, Lilly, a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was paid thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts because she was a woman. But Goodyear did not allow its employees to discuss their pay, so Lilly did not know she was the subject of pay discrimination. It wasn’t until Lilly received an anonymous note revealing the salaries of three male managers that she became aware of the discriminatory pay disparities between herself and her male colleagues. Permitting Goodyear employees to discuss their wages or requiring Goodyear to report their compensation data could have helped Lilly, a government enforcement agency, or even Goodyear quickly confront and put an end to the pay discrimination that, instead, compounded over Lilly’s career. Pay transparency might have even stopped Goodyear from paying such discriminatory wages in the first place.
Collecting summary compensation data from employers is an important tool for bringing discriminatory pay practices into the light so that they do not remain hidden in the shadows for decades. As the White House said, collecting compensation data “will help focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws and provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and occupations.”
Bravo to President Obama and the EEOC for picking the perfect gift to celebrate the Seventh Ledbetter Anniversary.