Our view: One for the ladies

DKS Editors

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama tipped his hat to women – so men could no longer tip the pay scales in American workplaces.

The first bill of his administration Obama chose to sign into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This bill expands workers’ rights to sue if they find out they are being paid less than their workplace equals.

The bill is named after Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman who at the end of her 19-year career as a supervisor at a Goodyear factory discovered that she had been paid less than her male colleagues. A jury found Goodyear guilty of pay discrimination, but the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, saying Ledbetter should have filed her suit within 180 days after she was first paid less. Considering she never knew she was getting paid less until the end of her career, this was nearly impossible.

The new law will now make this 180-day period re-start with each paycheck, so it will be difficult to run out of time to file a lawsuit against an employer. Congress had attempted to pass this law during President George W. Bush’s administration, but the White House opposed such measures, claiming it would encourage lawsuits and cause employees to delay filing claims in order to gain larger rewards.

During a time when two women were knocked out of the presidential race – either as a presidential nominee or vice presidential nominee – it’s comforting to see that these and other women’s battles have not gone unnoticed. This is one more giant leap for women in one short year.

Obama felt the weight of this legislature in a very personal way as well; he mentioned that his mother worked in a bank her whole life without full equality. More importantly, he cited the future – he doesn’t want his two little girls to ever know the inequalities in the workforce. He said he hopes for his girls to know “there are no limits to their dreams,” reported The New York Times.

But it’s not just a win for women, this is a win for anyone in America who has ever been discriminated against in the workplace. Although the law is named after a woman, minorities across the nation can rejoice that this is a law for them, about them.

Let this be the first of many laws upholding the equality of all people regardless of sex, age, race, religion and sexual preference, among others. Let it go beyond equality in the workforce to other parts of our lives.

This president understands discrimination firsthand as a minority. He, unlike the Bush administration, is not concerning himself with big businesses and keeping them from being hit with lawsuits. Instead, he cares about the individual – without whom businesses of any size would not be able to grow and survive.

Although Ledbetter will never see a cent from Goodyear, she is now a symbol for a much larger cause, one worth much more than every penny she lost out on. And although President Obama will never be able to make up for what his mother never saw, it is never too late to fix the future.

“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ” the president said according to the New York Times, “we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.”

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.