... Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.So a key question is whether there is good reason for the various limitations in the Equal Pay Act. From Ginsburg's opinion:
An initial disparity, even if known to the employee, might be small, Justice Ginsburg said, leading an employee, particularly a woman or a member of a minority group “trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment” to avoid “making waves.” Justice Ginsburg noted that even a small differential “will expand exponentially over an employee’s working life if raises are set as a percentage of prior pay.”...
As with an abortion ruling last month, this decision showed the impact of Justice Alito’s presence on the court. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whom he succeeded, would almost certainly have voted the other way, bringing the opposite outcome.
The impact of the decision on women may be somewhat limited by the availability of another federal law against sex discrimination in the workplace, the Equal Pay Act, which does not contain the 180-day requirement. Ms. Ledbetter initially included an Equal Pay Act complaint, but did not pursue it. That law has additional procedural hurdles and a low damage cap that excludes punitive damages. It does not cover discrimination on the basis of race or Title VII’s other protected categories.
In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg invited Congress to overturn the decision, as it did 15 years ago with a series of Supreme Court rulings on civil rights. “Once again, the ball is in Congress’s court,” she said. Within hours, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, announced her intention to submit such a bill.
Notably, the EPA provides no relief when the pay discrimination charged is based on race, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Thus,... the Court does not disarm female workers from achieving redress for unequal pay, but it does impede racial and other minorities from gaining similar relief.So, go ahead, Hillary. Fix it.
Furthermore, the difference between the EPA’s prohibition against paying unequal wages and Title VII’s ban on discrimination with regard to compensation is not as large as the Court’s opinion might suggest. The key distinction is that Title VII requires a showing of intent. In practical effect, “if the trier of fact is in equipoise about whether the wage differential is motivated by gender discrimination,” Title VII compels a verdict for the employer, while the EPA compels a verdict for the plaintiff. 2 C. Sullivan, M. Zimmer, & R. White, Employment Discrimination: Law and Practice §7.08[F], p. 532 (3d ed. 2002).