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Top Court Splits Five vs. Four Again

In a decision on wage discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court divided five to four along predictable lines. There are five conservatives and four liberals.

The case involves a woman who is a supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. She is the sole female supervisor. She was paid less than the other supervisors, including supervisors who were hired after she was.

After twenty years of employment at the same job, she concluded that she had had enough. She filed a formal complaint with the government. The case moved from court to court until it reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court ruled that the complaint was invalid because the aggrieved party filed her complaint too late. For the complaint to be valid, it had to be filed within 180 days after the original wage was set.

The court’s decision affects far more people than the woman in the Goodyear case. Between 2001 and 2006, some 40,000 workers have brought discrimination suits. Just how many know of the 180-day rule, we do not know.

But we have a suspicion that we would like to share with our readers. When the law was drafted giving workers the right to sue their employers for wage discrimination, there was a shrewd legislator who did not like the law to begin with but who did not want to go on record as voting against an act empowering workers to institute suits against employers for wage discrimination. So, he (or she) voted for the bill but tacked on the 180-day clause with the expectation that it would be a rare worker who knew about this little obscure requirement..

Apparently, four members of the U.S. Supreme Court realized that the 180-day clause was a trap and did not deserve the blessing of the court. But they were outvoted by the other five members.

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