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Published:February 2nd, 2009 22:45 EST
Obama Passes the First Progressive Bill In His Administration

Obama Passes the First Progressive Bill In His Administration

By Christopher HIllenbrand

On Thursday morning, Obama began delivering on the pledges he made to female rights activists on the campaign trail, when he signed a bill that overturned a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made pay discrimination lawsuits more difficult to pursue. Congress, led by a Democratic constituency, passed the bill earlier in the week: making it possible for the bill to be slipped beneath Obama`s pen.


Lilly Ledbetter, the woman after whom the bill was named, stood by the President`s side at the White House ceremony to witness the eponymous event firsthand. An audience of government officials was also present on hand for the ceremony.


In 2007, the Republican-led Supreme Court, under the Bush`s presidency, reached a 5 to 4 decision thereby stating that discrimination claims had to be filed within 180 days of the initial offense. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission`s viable argument that each discriminatory paycheck necessitates a new 180 day statute of limitations was rebuked by the judicial assembly at the time. Many critics called the measure a collective ignorance of decades of legal precedent first introduced by the EEOC with the Civil Rights Act in 1964.


Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Alabama, and an employee at the company for 19 years, when she discovered she was the most underpaid at her position. She pursued legal action after learning that many of her male equivalents, with fewer years of experience than she, were paid more than her. She won her case and although the jury found her a victim of discrimination, the 2007 Supreme Court Amendment forbade any damages to be awarded to her.


The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act effectively amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to reinstate the Commission`s standard to encompass income discrimination based on age, disabilities, gender, national origin, race and religion.


Naturally, the Republicans, many of whom supported the Supreme Court decision in 2007, and business executives disagreed with the law claiming it would lead to an influx of lawsuits stemming from old claims, as well as discouraging companies to employ women and minorities.


During the ceremony, President Barack expressed his opinion over the measure he just authorized. Signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody, that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces, " Obama exclaimed with the bill`s namesake at his side.


First Lady Michelle, who had been relatively inactive since the inaugural pomp and circumstance, hosted the subsequent White House reception for the supporters who aided in the bill`s enactment. During the reception, Michelle voiced her opinion of the woman who exemplified courage and determination in the face of sexism. She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, plain and simple. "


Concerning the law bearing her name, Ms. Ledbetter spoke on its ramifications, not for her, but for posterity`s sake. Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage (of the law) and president`s signature today, I have an even richer reward. I know that my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters will have a better deal. "


Prior to the bill`s passage, U.S. income statistics estimated that women made 23 percent less than males at the same occupation, while women of minorities made even less. Whether its impact will be felt in a year`s time when Obama`s stimulus package has had close to ten months to run its course, is yet to be seen even from certain pundits` perspectives.



The Associated Press