Lilly Ledbetter, whose efforts to establish equal pay for men and women resulted in President Barack Obama’s first piece of legislation — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — spoke before a packed audience at Daemen College April 22, 2013. Ledbetter told the audience “We still have a long way to go in the battle for equal pay, for men and women, for a good day’s work.”
After becoming one of the first women hired at the management level at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Factory in Gadsden, Alabama in 1979, 19 years into her job she found out she was making thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts.
She filed a sex discrimination case challenging Goodyear, which she won — then lost on appeal. Her case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she lost again. But in a dramatic moment as the Court rendered its verdict, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent, urging Ledbetter to fight back.
The result was a law amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act, so that unfair pay complaints could be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory act. In January, 2009, the bill was signed into law by newly-elected President Obama.