Just about six years ago, President Obama signed his first piece of legislation — the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — to extend the time period in which an employee could file a claim for pay discrimination. The Act overruled the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, which Ledbetter said allowed her employer to pay her unfairly “long enough to make it legal.”
At the time of its passage, President Obama said that the passage of the Act would “send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.”
If the new Congress is truly committed to the goal of pay equity, concrete steps must be taken. First, Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will strengthen the Equal Pay Act and help secure equal pay for equal work. Second, Congress must act to increase the minimum wage, as women make up two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage earners. Third, Congress should enact a universal, government-paid preschool program, as 10% of the wage gap is attributable to time that women spend outside of the workforce.
While the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a step in the right direction, Congress still has a lot of work to do to close the persisting wage gap. Let’s hope by the Seventh Anniversary of the Act, we are closer to pay equity and an economy that truly works for everyone.