The Lilly Ledbetter Act Sociology Essay Example
The Lilly Ledbetter Act Sociology Essay Example

The Lilly Ledbetter Act Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 13 (3545 words)
  • Published: August 11, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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In January 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, demonstrating his commitment to improving the lives of working women. This act had a significant impact on how women are perceived in the American workforce. However, only a small percentage of women will directly benefit from this new legislation. Scholars have offered various explanations for the gender wage gap, including women being segregated in female-dominated industries and disparities in professional skills, education, experience, and family status. Discrimination, both subtle and unconscious, is also believed to contribute to this wage gap. Despite existing across traditional fields, occupations associated with male roles continue to receive higher pay than those associated with traditionally female roles that require similar skill levels. The text emphasizes that women dominate occupations like nursing, healthcare, childcare, education,cleaning,an


d food preparation – historically performed by uncompensated women within their own homes.While white-collar sectors have seen progress by women,women in working-class America have yet to experience these economic and cultural changes.Women performing typically female jobs earn around 20% less than men doing equivalent work.The rise in women's wages can be attributed to increased participation in the workforce,elevated educational attainment levels,and advancement into professional and managerial positions.Despite progress in pay equality, there is still a gender wage gap in which women with the same education and experience earn 81% of what men earn. This percentage has improved from 60% in 1980 but has remained consistent for the past two decades. It is worth noting that women now make up half of the American workforce and earn 60% of college degrees. This shift is not solely attributed to empowerment; politics have also played a significant

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role through policies implemented in the 1960s to address gender discrimination in the labor market. These policies include the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, FMLA, and Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Acts of 2009 and 2012.

These policy changes, along with shifts such as growth in services and decline in manufacturing, have led to more women entering the American workforce. However, instances like the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) demonstrate inconsistent advancements despite progress made in pay equality.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA), passed on June 10, 1963, guarantees equal pay for men and women performing "substantially equal" work within the same workplace. This act was a response to paying women less based on assumptions about primary earners in families. Even with changing dynamics where women are often breadwinners due to various circumstances like death or disability of a spouse, divorce, or single parenthood, wage discrimination based on gender remains prohibited by the EPA for employees fulfilling equivalent roles within one organization.Although gender is no longer a determining factor in pay disparities, there may be valid reasons for differences in wages such as seniority, merit, work quality, or other factors unrelated to gender. The law also sets time limits for filing lawsuits based on intentional discrimination, ranging from two to three years. To make a claim under this law, a woman must provide evidence that her employer paid male employees higher wages despite both genders performing equal work requiring the same level of skill, effort, and responsibility in similar working conditions. The Equal Pay Act allows employers to justify paying male employees more based

on seniority systems, merit-based systems, productivity and work quality measures, or any other non-gender-related factors. While legal cases have challenged the first three justifications over time, disputes often arise when it comes to the fourth exception. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law on July 2nd, 1964 and marked a significant milestone in fighting against discrimination. President Lyndon Johnson showed his dedication to President Kennedy's legislative agenda by supporting this act. This legislation put an end to Jim Crow laws that were previously upheld by the Supreme Court in Plessy v.Ferguson in 1896.Congress expanded the Civil Rights Act in order to strengthen enforcement of civil rights, in response to racially-motivated violence that occurred during the tumultuous summer of 1963. This expansion included Title VII, which along with subsequent amendments, prohibits employment discrimination based on sex and covers areas such as hiring, promotion, and other terms of employment. If an individual faces discrimination, they must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days for further action. Initially considered a joke, the inclusion of "sex" in this Act has now become the basis for most gender-based discrimination policies in the United States. To address concerns about its impact on his predecessor, Congress passed the Bennett Amendment shortly before enacting the Act in 1964. Those referred to as "interested parties" were worried that employees who filed lawsuits under Title IV would not be required to provide evidence of "equal pay for equal work" as mandated by the EPA. The Bennett Amendment clarifies that employers can offer different wages based on gender if authorized by the Equal Pay Act. In 1965, President

Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order #11246 which mandates equal employment opportunities for minorities and was later amended to include gender discrimination.The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, grants job protection and unpaid leave for eligible employees experiencing family and medical matters. It recognizes the impact these situations have on the workplace. Eligible employees can opt for up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave within a one-year period due to personal serious health concerns, caring for a family member, pregnancy and childbirth, or adopting or fostering a child. To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must have been employed by the company for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year. This type of leave is specifically applicable to employees working in locations with at least 50 individuals within a radius of 75 miles.

It is important to note that certain workers are not covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This includes those employed in businesses with fewer than 50 employees, part-time employees who haven't worked enough hours, and individuals needing time off for non-serious illnesses or to care for relatives with non-serious illnesses. Routine medical appointments are also excluded from FMLA coverage.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), also known as PRWORA, emphasizes personal responsibility and paid work for low-income families receiving public aid.This act led to changes by terminating income support benefits for single mothers and highlighting the importance of paid employment in lifting these families out of poverty. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act

into law, allowing victims of wage discrimination to file a complaint with the government within 180 days from their last paycheck, replacing the previous timeframe based on the date of the first unfair paycheck. To address equal pay issues under law, a combination of two acts is considered: The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1963, there was a significant wage gap between full-time working women and men, as women earned only 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Over a period of 49 years, this gap has narrowed by only 20 cents or less than half a penny per year [1]. According to a survey conducted in 2007 by the U.S. Census Bureau that analyzed wages across all industries and occupation groups, women consistently had lower median wages compared to men. Interestingly, even within female-dominated businesses, women tended to earn more than their counterparts in the same industry. The Institute for Women's Policy Research estimates that implementing equal pay nationwide would result in an annual increase of $319 billion for women and their families [2], including part-time workers [3].Despite the existence of important laws such as the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, enforcing them can be difficult due to challenges in proving and winning legal cases. One major difficulty is that many women who are underpaid may not even realize it. Moreover, companies discourage discussions about wages despite having unfair policies. When women lack knowledge about the true pay rates for jobs, they may unknowingly undervalue themselves during salary negotiations. It is impractical for women to file

lawsuits because the limited awards available under the Equal Pay Act make it hard to find a lawyer willing to take on their case. The EPA also prohibits participation in class action cases for pay discrimination, further complicating women's ability to address this issue. Women still face obstacles like the glass ceiling and old boys' network, with recent court settlements exposing systemic discrimination in low-wage industries. In 2011, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs settled with three employers guilty of systemic sex discrimination. However, many victims of wage discrimination choose silence out of fear of retaliation, particularly vulnerable low-wage workers who could suffer negative consequences if they speak up against discrimination. Limited resources also pose challenges for these workers when seeking alternatives.
Moreover, women who speak up about discrimination frequently encounter negative stereotypes as troublemakers, which can negatively impact their future job opportunities. Employers often respond aggressively by trying to discredit employees and safeguard their company's reputation. In legal proceedings, female employees may be subjected to invasive questioning about their sexual history and gynecological medical records in an attempt to intimidate them. It can be challenging to pursue and win legal cases due to the reliance on complaints for law enforcement, with employers holding most of the necessary evidence. This situation can have devastating consequences on complainants' personal lives and finances when prosecuting equal pay claims. The initial Executive Orders during World War II aimed at addressing discrimination in the private sector, falling under the President's authority for national defense provision. The Johnson administration demonstrated a strong commitment to social policy through Executive Order #11246, which aimed to eliminate longstanding exclusion of minorities and women

from workplaces and create a level playing field. President Johnson derived his authority for this order from his power to ensure efficient government procurement.The Executive Orders in question pertain to labor supply, as evidence suggests that eliminating discrimination is linked to economic stability and efficiency within the government. Research indicates that affirmative action has had a positive effect on reducing the gender wage gap and providing more employment opportunities for adult females in contractor houses. However, challenges persist for women in the private sector due to limitations on affirmative action laws and regulations. Only two categories of private-sector employers are obligated to implement affirmative action programs: those with federal contracts or subcontracts over $50,000, and those with at least 50 employees. As a result, approximately one-fourth of American workers in the private sector fall under mandatory federal affirmative action plans. These policy changes likely contribute to the gender wage disparity. Nevertheless, not all workers qualify for coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, meaning that many low-wage single-income workers cannot afford unpaid time off from work. This situation disproportionately impacts low-wage workers who have a higher need for paid leave during significant life events but are less likely to be covered by this federal policy. Women make up roughly two-thirds of the low-wage service-related workforce and represent 59% of this sector's population.However, these women often face significant time demands as they juggle multiple jobs, childcare responsibilities, and the pursuit of education and training. Many single-mother households, dealing with financial difficulties and limited job opportunities, live from one paycheck to another. They fear being easily replaceable by their employers and are reluctant to

challenge discrimination or remain silent due to factors like lack of information about higher-paying jobs, limited transportation options, and the challenges faced by low-wage female workers who lose their jobs.

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was initially seen as a reaffirmation of America's work ethic; however, it had an unequal impact on poverty rates among low-wage households, particularly those headed by single mothers. While this act resulted in increased employment for single female parents during a period of robust labor market conditions, research indicates that pay levels for less-educated workers remained stagnant even when earnings profiles improved. Female workers without high levels of education not only earn lower wages but also suffer significantly from the gender wage gap. Low-educated, low-wage workers experience minimal pay growth and limited increases even if they stay with the same employer. Their experience is considered less valuable than that of more educated workers when transitioning to a new employer.The gender wage gap, which accounts for 49.3 percent of the disparity, is primarily caused by occupational segregation in service sector jobs between men and women. Female-dominated occupations historically receive lower pay compared to male-dominated jobs that require similar skill levels. This wage inequality is not solely based on skill level but rather stems from societal values and biases that consistently undervalue women's work. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act allows women to challenge discriminatory wage practices; however, it does not completely eliminate the issue of wage disparity. The act modifies Title VII and restores the previous legal precedent on the timing of legal challenges overturned by the Supreme Court in the 2007 Ledbetter case. As more women

enter the workforce, pay discrimination significantly impacts economic and retirement security for American households, especially as many women become primary breadwinners due to increased employment rates. Achieving pay equity becomes even more crucial in this context. While the Ledbetter Act represents progress, stronger incentives are necessary for employers to comply with equal pay laws and empower women to negotiate fair wages. To address the gender pay gap effectively, federal outreach, education, and enforcement efforts like those proposed in the unsuccessful Paycheck Fairness Act are important measures to implement.These measures aim to discourage discrimination by implementing harsh penalties for violations of equal pay and safeguarding workers from retaliation when they inquire about pay practices or reveal their own compensation. The consequences of the gender pay gap are far-reaching, as it undermines women's ability to support themselves and their families if they earn less than men. This has resulted in a significant rise in single-parent households, particularly those led by women, over the past four decades in the United States. This increase can be connected to an escalation in child poverty rates. It is unsurprising that single-mother households are nearly twice as likely as single-father households to live below the poverty line. While most children raised in mother-only families thrive, there may be adverse effects on others. Women who earn lower wages face a disadvantage of having a less secure economic position and may hesitate to question their earnings due to fear of falling into poverty. The wage gap also extends to fringe benefits, which currently constitute approximately 30 percent of total compensation. Reduced wages result in decreased lifetime earnings, ultimately leading to diminished pension benefits during

retirement. Some women may not have concerns regarding lack of coverage or lower benefits if they receive them through a spouse; however, it poses a serious problem for others who do not receive equal health or pension benefits from their job.The difference in fringe benefits between men and women is believed to be due to disparities in human capital and job characteristics, stemming from maternity and childrearing responsibilities that primarily fall on women. These responsibilities can lead to less work experience and skills for women, making it more difficult for them to qualify for higher-paying positions. However, studies show that when considering gender-based distinctions in work hours, breaks, and part-time work, childless women earn the same as mothers and single women earn the same as married women. Therefore, pay disparities cannot solely be attributed to motherhood; other factors related to unequal sharing of childrearing responsibilities must also be considered.

Furthermore, research has found that even among specific groups of students graduating with equal levels of experience from the same law school, the argument about human capital does not explain gender-based pay gaps within the American labor force. Another contributing factor is industry and pay structure. Discrimination against women begins early in their careers and persists regardless of their chosen career paths. Female graduates not only initially earn less than male counterparts but also face a persistent earning gap with each promotion, leading to a widening gender pay divide over time.The wage disparity that women face is prevalent in all industries and businesses they enter. The increase of women in white-collar jobs has benefited them as blue-collar jobs, which historically had fewer female representatives, have declined. In

the past, men were more likely to be part of labor unions compared to women. Labor unions have played a role in reducing the gender wage gap; however, with unions expanding into public sector and service-related industries that employ more women, there has been an increase in non-unionized female workers. Despite this rise, it has had minimal impact on the widening gender wage gap. Public sector and service-related industries are significant for women because they have historically been overrepresented in these sectors. These occupations generally offer higher wages than those in the private sector, thus increasing the average wage for women within our modern economy. However, recent decisions by many state and local governments to downsize public sector employment due to reduced revenues and budget deficits have resulted in substantial economic consequences for women. Despite having higher levels of education, employees in provincial and local public sectors consistently receive lower pay compared to their counterparts in the private industry.
The text highlights the wage disparity faced by women and minorities, who also face higher job loss rates due to their overrepresentation in certain sectors. Affirmative action policies have had a significant impact on public sector jobs, primarily benefiting white women from non-low-income backgrounds. According to the United States Labor Department, approximately 6 million white women now hold higher occupational positions as a result of these policies. This empowerment of women is seen as one of the notable changes in recent decades, facilitated by equal rights acts, adjustments to social welfare legislation, and employment laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Act. These changes have coincided with increased participation of both women and minorities in the American workforce. The

improvements in wages for adult females can be attributed to their greater involvement in labor force activities, higher educational attainment, and advancements in professional and managerial roles. However, despite these advancements, wage inequality persists. Throughout history, legislation aimed at eliminating workplace discrimination has also contributed to economic growth.The text suggests that capitalism or the economic system influences the motivation behind legislation for equality or gender parity.This phenomenon can be observed through examples such as Executive Order #11246 and The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.The impact of these acts on low-wage female workers has resulted in an increase in single-mother families living in poverty. It is important to note that no legislation has been enacted thus far to protect part-time and contingent workers, whose numbers are growing. These workers lack overtime pay at a higher rate, minimum wage protection, and job security. Furthermore, most low-wage single mothers are not covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. The effects of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and subsequent amendments (such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Acts of 2009 and 2012) primarily apply to the public sector regulated by the EEOC; however, blue-collar jobs with strong union presence in the private sector also show similar impacts. Unions provide benefits, safety measures, and job security. Lily Ledbetter herself experienced these advantages due to union protection at her job. Research indicates that women who belong to unions experience less pay disparity. Low-wage workers face obstacles in unionizing, particularly in the private sector where employers discourage such efforts using bullying and intimidation tactics aimed at dissuading them

from seeking union membership. Therefore, having strong labor unions in these industries would greatly benefit low-wage workers.
In order to effectively address the issue of wage disparity, it is important to improve the enforcement of current laws and pass stronger legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Lawsuits alone are not enough to deter wage inequality due to their high cost and difficulty in presenting a convincing argument. Individual cases have limited impact on the labor market, while class-action cases involving multiple employees suing one or a few employers are rare. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) typically does not provide a viable solution for addressing pay inequality. Additionally, the widespread nature of this problem makes it challenging to assess and combat. Therefore, external sources must be involved in driving change. It is essential to establish federal standards that specifically target wage inequality in all levels of government and private sector organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) actively supports constitutional rights and U.S. laws by handling numerous discrimination cases on behalf of workers each year. They also provide testimonies to Congress on women's issues and work towards advocating for women's rights in the workplace. The National Committee on Pay Equity collaborates with various organizations to eliminate wage discrimination based on sex and race, aiming for pay equity.
The American Association of University Women is committed to advancing equal opportunities for adult women. They aim to eliminate economic and instructional obstacles by leveraging legislation, research, advocacy, and charitable contributions. Their ultimate objective is to ensure fair chances for women.

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