Thank a Democrat: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Updated: Jul 9

Protection Against Pay Discrimination

by J. Michael Atherton



There was a time when bosses could discriminate against a worker’s pay for any reason they wanted. Such unfair practices frequently harmed women in the workforce. Lilly Ledbetter uncovered pay cuts that occurred exclusively because she was a woman and had the courage and stamina to take it to court. She finally had a law named after her signed on 2009.


The Congressional vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act paints a picture that remains as true today as it was then: 299 Democrats Yea, 203 Republicans Nay. 4 Democrats voted Nay and 7 Republicans (all women) voted Yea. Republicans seldom support worker protections, and especially female workers.


Why would any working woman support Republicans?


The Lilly Ledbetter Act means workers can file discrimination charges 10 years or longer after it occurred. Before the Ledbetter Act sexist owners easily hid their unfair practices for the required 180-300 days. After that time they danced home free and clear. The Ledbetter Law changed the time owners can hide unfair practices. The Ledbetter Act means people can file charges of pay discrimination even if it is 20 years after the unfair practices.


Bosses hide unfair pay practices in confusing records, secret deals, and backroom bargaining that workers seldom see. Limiting legal actions to 180-300 days after the unfair pay practices occurred means average workers did not even know they had been cheated until it was too late to act. The limited time span for legal actions let gleeful owners off the hook and encouraged unfair pay practices. Since Republicans march to any tune they hear from their corporate masters, Republicans opposed the Ledbetter act. Remember 203 Republicans voted against fair pay for women.


President Obama, a noted Democrat, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009. If you think women should have the right to take legal actions to enforce fair pay practices and support laws that protect this right, then Thank a Democrat.


About the author:

John Michael Atherton (Mike) has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). Four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage, first child, and PhD all at the University of Chicago. Moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where wife Cynthia Walter taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. Moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment. Just add that they are great fun to be around and you have a winning combination.

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