Equal Pay May Be One Vote Away

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WASHINGTON - An Alabama woman who has spent a decade fighting for fair pay standards for women is praying 2009 is the year that will put an end to pay discrimination.

Nearly half a century after the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, Congress and the President may be poised to act.

Lilly Ledbetter's Story

Lilly Ledbetter worked as a supervisor for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for nearly 20 years.

She received an anonymous note one day that revealed men who started working the same job at the same time she did earned as much as 40 percent more.

"It was so degrading to know that I was considered so less of value than my male counterparts for doing the exact same work," Ledbetter recalled.

Women's advocates say it's an issue working females fight every day since, on average, women make just 75 cents for every dollar men make.

Ledbetter decided to do something about it. She sued.

A jury sided with her, but the U.S. Supreme Court argued she didn't file her case soon enough, overturning the lower court's ruling on a technicality.

The Fair Pay Act

Now Congress is taking action.

"The bill overturns the unfair Ledbetter decision where five members of the Supreme Court basically told employers everywhere that if you can just get away with cheating an employee - usually a woman - for six months and not have them call you on it, you have our permission to continue to cheat them," Rep. Carolyn Maloney charged.

The House passed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last week despite warnings from critics that the bill has unintended consequences.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. who opposes the bill, argued, "Especially in this economic climate we cannot afford to enable endless litigation of potentially staggering record keeping requirements on employers."

Ledbetter says fair pay goes beyond women. She says it's about families and quality of life.

"In today's society it takes, in most households, two people, especially for their children, to maintain a middle class livelihood," Ledbetter contended.

The Vote

Now the bill's fate lies in the hands of senators who will vote Thursday on whether or not to debate the bill.

If it ultimately passes, The Lilly Ledbetter Act could be one of the first pieces of legislation President-elect Barack Obama signs into law.

He even invited Ledbetter to join him on his train ride from Philadelphia to Washington to take the oath of office.

*Originally aired January 17, 2009

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Jennifer Wishon

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