McCain for Equal Pay? Um, No.

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 24 2008 2:08 PM

McCain for Equal Pay? Um, No.

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Emily Bazelon Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

Last night, Senate Republicans killed the Equal Pay Bill, which would have undone the Supreme Court's bad deed in a case last term called 

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Lily Ledbetter sued Goodyear for sex discrimination because she earned less than men in similar positions--a fact she proved in court. But on appeal, the Supreme Court found that Ledbetter's suit was too late, by setting the clock according to Ledbetter's first unfairly low pay check, rather than the ongoing low salary she continued to receive years later. It didn't matter when she found out she was being shortchanged--only when Goodyear started doing so.

John McCain said Wednesday that he supports "pay equity for women," but opposes the fix for Ledbetter's plight in the Equal Pay Bill because it "opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems." That has a nice anti-litigation ring, but does it make sense? As Rich Ford pointed out in Slate after the Supreme Court's decision, the clear lesson the case holds for employees is "Sue early and often. If you suspect your boss might be discriminating with regard to your pay, you can't afford to wait around until you're sure." The Equal Pay Bill might give rise to more meritorious law suits. But couldn't it also stave off some losers--Rich or anyone else, thoughts? And what does it mean to be for pay equity for women while opposing what's on offer to actually help achieve it?

(Cross posted on Slate's women's blog, XX Factor.)