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January 29, 2009

A Glorious Day for Equal Pay!

January 29. Day 213.

If you're a working woman... if you're reading this at your desk, or at home after a long day's toil...

Read this post. Then stop.

Stop reading.

Stop browsing.

And make a plan, immediately, for how you will find out what your male colleagues are earning. Because while statistics say women are paid 77 cents for every dollar men earn, the law finally says THAT'S ILLEGAL.

You've probably heard the big news today for working women: Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation

For those who have not, here is the background: After working in a Goodyear factory for 19 years, Ledbetter discovered she was being paid a lot less than her male colleagues doing the same job. Someone tipped her off with an anonymous note listing salaries of 3 male coworkers. She successfully sued in Alamaba, citing the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act, but the Supreme Court ruled she shouldn't have gone to trial because it was too late. People must report unequal pay 6 months after the first paycheck, it said.

Well, for years she has fought to change that law, and Obama signed the Equal Pay Act today!

Long live Lilly!

Her quote in today's NYT: “Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent. But with the president’s signature today I have an even richer reward.”

And here's her advice from an earlier interview:

How did you know your rights? What led you to sue?
There's a lot of publicity about EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and your rights, and I knew I was a lone female in a male-dominated factory. When I saw that note, it just floored me. I was so shocked at the amount of difference in our pay for doing the same exact job. When we got into the case, I was more shocked to see what all the other people were making, too. They all had much greater pay than I, and most had less seniority, less experience. And I worked there for 20 years. I was a good employee, and I worked hard; there was nothing I couldn't do.

What advice would you give working women when it comes to getting the wages they deserve?
It's a very difficult thing to do anything about. For one thing, if you're one of very few women working in a job, if you rock the boat or ask a question, they say you're a troublemaker. I'd been in meetings where higher people in my plant would say, "We don't need women in this factory," but they knew the law required them to have some. I sat through those meetings, and I was discriminated against because I did my job and I liked my job, and I was good at it.

Women need to observe, pay attention, be alert. And if possible, have a mentor to help them along the way. If they get any written proof of discrimination, they need to hold onto it. But it's difficult if a corporation goes into it knowing they're going to discriminate.

Today, I truly am asking you, fair reader, to investigate. How much are the guys sitting next to you or the workers from the next shift earning? What's fair for your industry, your level of experience, your rank?

Gossip. Dig. Poke around. Check sites like the excellent, or the more general and The WSJ suggests this trick: find out your colleagues tax rebates and work backward.

If you find a disparity, let us all know. A discrimination lawyer could be reading this... or someone else who didn't have the courage or motivation to ask around... or maybe even your boss...

If your pay is fair and equitable, I'd be just as thrilled to hear from you.

I'm also happy to try to help you investigate your peers' salaries. Email me your situation and I'll see what I can do. I'm thedailyasker [at] gmail.

I typically close comments older posts (to block spammers), but I'll keep this one open for good. Please... let us know what you find out!!

Gained: 23 cents on the dollar.
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