January 22, 2009

LILLY LEDBETTER EQUAL PAY LEGISLATION

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, let me first thank my colleague from Maryland for giving me the opportunity to speak, but also to thank her for her extraordinary leadership on behalf of gender equality in our Nation. Senator Mikulski is no stranger to this issue. She has fought her entire life on behalf of equality for all people in this country. From her days as a social worker to her service on the City Council of Baltimore and now to the Senate, she has been our leader on speaking out for what is right on behalf of women, on behalf of all of the people of our Nation. So I thank Senator Mikulski very much for everything she has done, not just on this issue but on so many issues that affect equality for the people of our country.

 

This has been an extraordinary week. On Monday we celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King had a dream that everyone in this country would have the equal opportunity of this great land, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. He had a dream. Then, yesterday, we saw this Nation take a giant step forward in reaching that dream with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. We can take another giant step forward now by passing the legislation that my colleague from Maryland is bringing forward, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It is so important that we do this.

 

Let me give my colleagues some of the facts. They know this, but it is worth repeating. Today in the workplace women are being discriminated against. On average, women make 77 percent of what a male makes for the same work. That is unacceptable and inexcusable. We need to change that.

 

Lilly Ledbetter worked for 19 years at Goodyear Tire Company. It was shown that she was making $15,000 less than her male counterparts were making in the United States of America. Well, we passed legislation to make sure that could not happen and that there were rights to protect women who were discriminated against by that type of action by an employer. Lilly Ledbetter did what was right. She filed her case and it was found that, yes, she was discriminated against, but guess what. Her claim was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States by a 5-to-4 vote because she didn't bring her case within 180 days of the discrimination. She didn't know about the discrimination until a fellow worker told her about it, well past 180 days. She couldn't possibly have brought the case within 180 days.

 

Now it is time for us to correct that Supreme Court decision, and that is exactly what the legislation Senator Mikulski has brought forward will do. It will reverse the Supreme Court decision giving women and giving people of this Nation an effective remedy if an employer discriminates based upon gender.

 

I have listened to some of the debate on the floor. I don't want to see us put additional roadblocks in the way of women being able to have an effective remedy. I respect greatly my colleague from Texas. She is very sincere and a very effective Member of this body. However, I don't want to have lawyers debating whether a person can bring a claim, as to whether they had reasonable cause or try to think of what someone was thinking about at the time. This is very simple. If you discriminate against your employee, they should have an effective remedy. The Supreme Court turned down that remedy. The legislation that is on the floor corrects it. It is our obligation, I believe, to make sure that is done.

 

So I wish to take these few moments to urge my colleagues to pass the legislation that is before us. Let's not put additional roadblocks in the way. Let's not pass amendments that will become ways in which employers such as Goodyear Tire could prevent their employees from getting fair pay. The time is now. Let's pass this legislation.

I again congratulate my colleague from Maryland for her leadership on this issue.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.