Lilly Ledbetter Talks Equal Pay On The Colbert Report

by Erika W. Smith

What’s scarier than monsters, ghouls, zombies, or vampires? The pay gap! Women’s rights activist Lilly Ledbetter appeared on the Colbert Report on Halloween night to talk about the Lilly Ledbetter Act and her new memoir, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond.

“My guest tonight became the face of equal pay for women. Tonight, I will pay her just as much attention as I pay my male guests,” Colbert said as he introduced Ledbetter.

Colbert led Ledbetter through the story of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. In 1998, after almost 20 years of employment, Ledbetter discovered that she was being paid 40% less than her male peers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Alabama. She filed a claim against Goodyear, which eventually reached the Supreme Court. The Court denied her claim because she filed suit after the statue of limitations.

“They said I did not file my charge soon enough. Justice Alito wrote the opinion and he said I should have filed my charge when I got the first discriminatory paycheck, even though I didn’t know it, even though I couldn’t prove it,” Ledbetter said.

“How did it feel to have another group of men take away your money?” Colbert quipped.

“Pretty devastating. Very sad,” Ledbetter answered.

Ledbetter’s case led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which states that the 180-day statue of limitations for filing an equal pay lawsuit resets after each new paycheck. It was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama after he took office in January 2009.

“How does it feel to be famous for righting what you see as an injustice?” Colbert asked.

 “It’s quite an awesome responsibility because, as I told the president when he signed that bill – and it’s named for me – I felt that I needed to get out and tour the country, and the world, in fact, and share my story because what happened to me, I don’t want to happen to any other American family. Because this goes on for the rest of your life,” she said.

Colbert brought up that Mitt Romney has said that he is neither for nor against the Lilly Ledbetter Act. “What if women just hold out and see what’s behind door number Mitt?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t advise that,” Ledbetter answered.

You can watch the whole interview here.


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