University of Pittsburgh
November 20, 2006

Pitt Law Professor's Amicus Brief to U. S. Supreme Court Argues Lower Court's Ruling Limits Ability to Address Gender Wage Gap

Brief written on behalf of 24 women's rights organizations; the case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear, is set for argument Nov. 27
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-Despite the progress of recent decades, working women continue to earn less on the dollar than men, says University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake, in a FindLaw online article written with Joanna Grossman, Hofstra Law School professor. Brake coauthored an amicus curiae brief in the case urging the Court to allow Title VII challenges to ongoing pay discrimination that originated outside the statute of limitations period.

On Nov. 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will review an Eleventh Circuit Court ruling that would require an employee to challenge each discriminatory pay decision within 180 days of when it is made. Brake and colleagues argue in the amicus brief that unless the Supreme Court rejects the lower court's ruling, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 will no longer be an effective tool for challenging sex discrimination in pay. Furthermore, they note, the Court will have created a safe harbor for pay discrimination to persist and grow over time.

Brake can discuss:

o The importance of the case: Unless the Supreme Court rejects this rule, Title

VII will no longer be an effective tool for challenging sex discrimination in pay;

o The burdens the rule places on employees: In the majority of cases, employees

don't immediately know if an individual pay decision is discriminatory;

o The incentives for employers: Under the lower court's ruling, each "affirmative"

pay decision by an employer wipes the slate clean of ongoing pay discrimination

resulting from prior decisions; and

o The rush to suit: Title VII should promote conciliation and voluntary

compliance, and not put an employee in the position of having to immediately

sue after each pay decision.