How to Use the Legal System to Fight Unfair Wage Discrimination
Historically, the new era of women in the workforce was prompted by the same war that disrupted the ecosystem of American homelife. Over 6 million women joined the workforce during World War II. While our boys went off and fought for our freedom, it was the women that kept the economy running back home. American women went from homemakers to shipbuilders, electricians, welders, mechanics, farmers, police officers, and taxicab drivers. Rosie the Riveter was the face of what women were accomplishing despite tumultuous times. The simple slogan, “We Can Do It” empowered women, and gave them the ability to accomplish what was otherwise thought taboo in that era.
Promptly, women began fighting for fair wages because when women flooded the workforce, wage discrimination wasn’t far behind. In 1942, the National War Labor Board began to rule that women must receive an equal pay rate to their male counterparts, but the war ended before the ruling could be enforced. Post-war, women were then forced out of jobs as our veterans returned home. It would be another 20 years before the fight for pay equality gained some traction.
Fighting For Fair Wages Results In Progress
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy the Equal Pay Act or Fair Wages Act was signed into law. According to Payscale, the Equal Pay Act “made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for similar work”.
Other cases that strengthened the Equal Pay Act and furthered the fight for fair wages were legal wins, such as:
- Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. (1970), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit – To fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act the job must be “substantially equal” in terms of what the job requires but not identical. An employer cannot change the title of the job for women in order to pay them less.
- Corning Glass Works v. Brennan (1974), U.S. Supreme Court – It was ruled that Corning Glass couldn’t pay women less for equal work simply because they worked the afternoon shift, and men worked the night shift. Even after women were allowed to work the night shift they should receive equal pay.
The proposed Equal Rights Amendment which would grant women a constitutional right to equal pay for equal work, has seen much opposition. Unfortunately, since 1972, the ERA has yet to be ratified into the Constitution.
Legally, those fighting for fair wages face tough legislation ruling still, even in the 21st Century. Though one recent win in 2009 stands out–The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which signed into law by President Barack Obama. Lilly Ledbetter fought Goodyear, in court for 10 years because she was paid less than her male counterparts while doing the same work. She was granted a $3 million settlement that was initially was overturned on appeal. But, eventually The Lily Ledbetter Fair Act was successfully enacted. It says that women have 180 days from the date of their last paycheck to file a discrimination claim. As opposed to only having 180 days from the day of being discriminated against. This grants women facing pay discrimination the opportunity to seek the legal recourse they need.
Fighting For Fair Wages | Fight For Fair Wages