It makes me very nervous when Supreme Court Justices blatantly put themselves above the law rather than simply taking it as it is written by our elected representatives. At least the majority on the Court made the straight-forward and correct judgment on this matter:
A Supreme Court once again split by the thinnest of margins ruled yesterday that workers may not sue their employers over unequal pay caused by discrimination alleged to have occurred years earlier.
The court ruled 5 to 4 that Lilly Ledbetter, the lone female supervisor at a tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., did not file her lawsuit against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in the timely manner specified by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ...
A jury had originally awarded Ledbetter more than $3.5 million because it found "more likely than not" that sex discrimination during her 19-year career led to her being paid substantially less than her male counterparts.
An appeals court reversed, saying the law requires that a suit be filed within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred," and Ledbetter could not prove discrimination within that time period. ...
Alito wrote for the majority that "current effects alone can't breathe life into prior, uncharged discrimination." He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Thomas is a former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"We apply the statute as written, and this means that any unlawful employment practice, including those involving compensation, must be presented . . . within the period prescribed by the statute," Alito said.
That seems fair, right? The law says 180 days, so what's the argument? Well, apparently some Justices think they know so much better than Congress that they should be able to rewrite the law as they see fit.
The decision moved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to read a dissent from the bench, a usually rare practice that she has now employed twice in the past six weeks to criticize the majority for opinions that she said undermine women's rights.
Speaking for the three other dissenting justices, Ginsburg's voice was as precise and emotionless as if she were reading a banking decision, but the words were stinging.
"In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination," she said.
Justice Ginsburg is wrong; if she doesn't like the text of the law then she should take it up with Congress. If she thinks there's a lack of comprehension she should quit her job as a Supreme Court Justice and get elected to Congress where she will be legally empowered by the Constitution to propose whatever laws she wants. It doesn't matter whether or not the law is "fair", it is the Court's job to apply it as written. Unelected judges have no business changing laws that were created in a democratic fashion. They don't have that power under the Constitution, and they have no extra-legal moral standing to undermine the will of the majority.
As for the plaintiff, if she believed she was being paid unfairly she should have found another job. That's what the rest of us do. Newsflash: we'd all like to make more money, but few of us have the self-important nerve to sue for it.
Ledbetter, like Ginsburg a woman in her 70s, said she was "disappointed, very, very disappointed" with the decision. "I worked a lot of years doing the hard work and not to get paid as much as the men will affect me every day in the future" in the form of lower retirement benefits, she said.
She knew what she was getting paid, she agreed to it, she did the work... what does she have to complain about? If she didn't like the offer she didn't have to take it. It's called a free market. Instead of whining to the courts, Ledbetter and other women who face this issue should learn to deal with it through negotiation.