President Obama has signed Congress's first bill of 2009 into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In his comments, in the East Room of the White House, the president mentioned that this is a first step on the way to "closing the pay gap".
The new law allows for legal action to be pursued within 180 days of the last paycheck. Previously, legal action had to be pursued within 180 days of the first instance of pay discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter did not know until her retirement that for 20+ years her employer had paid her less than her male colleagues who had been doing the same work. This meant, over the course of her employment, more than $200,000 in lost salary, and even more, as the president reminded us, in social security and pension benefits.
The symbolism of this "first" illustrates President Obama's commitment to the issue of equality. For women in the workplace, however, this is far more than a symbol: it's an economic reality.
In the Senate, by the way, both of Georgia's Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, voted against the bill, as did other Southern Senators. In some ways, we still have a long way to go.
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