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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lilly Ledbetter to Speak at Pitt-Bradford

BRADFORD, Pa. – Lilly Ledbetter, who inspired the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, will speak at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford later this month about equal pay for women, equal rights in the workplace and leadership.

Ledbetter’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 19 in Bromeley Family Theater in Blaisdell Hall. The event is part of Pitt-Bradford’s Women’s History Month programming.

After Ledbetter discovered that she was making thousands less per year than men in the same management position at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, she battled for 10 years to close the gap between women’s and men’s wages, sparring with the U.S. Supreme Court and lobbying Capitol Hill.

Although she won a jury verdict of more than $3 million after having filed a gender pay discrimination suit in federal court, the Supreme Court later overturned the lower court’s ruling, arguing that Ledbetter had filed her suit too late. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reading her dissent from the bench, urged Ledbetter to continue fighting to change the law.

In the end, the Supreme Court was nullified when, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed into the law the first new law of his administration, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which resets the statute of limitations for a worker to sue for discriminatory pay each time he or she receives a discriminatory paycheck.

Ledbetter was born in a house with no running water or electricity in the small town of Possum Trot, Ala. In 1979, with two young children at home and over the initial objections of her husband, Charles, she applied for her dream job at the Goodyear tire factory. Even though the only women she’d seen at the plant were secretaries in the front office where she’d submitted her application, she was hired at the management level.

Nineteen years later, she received an anonymous note revealing that she was making thousands less per year than the men working in the same position. That was when she filed her sex-discrimination suit against Goodyear. She never did receive compensation for the years she worked for less pay than her male counterparts.

Today Ledbetter is an advocate for change, traveling the country to urge women and minorities to claim their civil rights.

In addition to her public speech, Ledbetter will be meeting with students, staff and faculty on campus throughout the day. Her visit is sponsored in part by a $1,000 grant from the Walmart Community Grant Program.

The overall theme for Pitt-Bradford’s Women’s History Month Celebration is, “Owning Our Stories, Lifting Our Voices.”

Other events include an Empty Bowls and Baskets hunger awareness dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. March 19 in the Mukaiyama University Room of the Frame-Westerberg Commons, which is also open to the public.

For disability needs related to Ledbetter’s talk or the dinner, contact the Office of Disability Resources at 814-362-7609 or clh71@pitt.edu.

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