Today the Supreme Court split 5-4 in rejecting a worker's claim of unequal pay, finding that the time for filing such a lawsuit under Title VII begins running with the original decision on a pay differential and ends 180 days later. The majority rejected the arguement that in pay cases there is no new violation each time a later paycheck is issued.
Held: Because the later effects of past discrimination do not restart the clock for filing an EEOC charge, Ledbetter's claim is untimely.
In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg (joined by Justice Stevens, Souter and Breyer) stated:
The Court's insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter's case, insmall increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee's view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasonsfor those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environ-ment, is averse to making waves.
Pay disparities are thus significantly different from adverse actions "such as termination, failure to promote, . . . or refusal to hire," all involving fully communicateddiscrete acts, "easy to identify" as discriminatory. Citation omitted. It is only when the disparity becomes apparent and sizable, e.g., through future raisescalculated as a percentage of current salaries, that anemployee in Ledbetter's situation is likely to comprehend her plight and, therefore, to complain. Her initial readiness to give her employer the benefit of the doubt should not preclude her from later challenging the then currentand continuing payment of a wage depressed on account ofher sex.