Celebrating Women’s History Month: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month.  In recognition of this, we are taking a look back at the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  The Act arose out of a Supreme Court case.

Lilly Ledbetter was an employee at the Goodyear Plant in Gadsden, Alabama.  Upon receiving an anonymous note revealing the salaries of her three male co-managers, she filed a complaint with the EEOC.  She had previously been the victim of sexual harassment at her workplace and had been told by her boss that he didn’t think a woman should be working at the plant.  Her case went to trial and the jury awarded her back-pay, as well as millions in compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination she had faced.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the jury’s verdict, arguing that the case was filed too late–despite the fact that she continued to receive discriminatory pay.  They reasoned that the company’s decision to pay her less than her male counterparts had been made years earlier.  The Supreme Court upheld the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in a 5-4 opinion, stating that employees can’t challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the original decision to pay the employee in a discriminatory fashion occurred more than 180 days earlier–even if that employee was continuing to be paid less.

The decision upset longstanding precedent under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and undermined Congress’s objectives to eliminate workplace discrimination.  In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsberg said pointed out that someone could still take action to fix this discriminatory treatment– “[o]nce again, the ball is in Congress’ court.”

In less than two years, Congress did just that, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  Under the act, each discriminatory paycheck resets the 180-day limit to file a claim, rather than the original decision to discriminate.  This allows employees who are unaware of discrimination initially to challenge pay discrimination when they find out about it.

To listen to the Supreme Court oral arguments or read the opinion, visit Oyez.

Celebrating African American History Month: A Look Back at South Carolina’s Legal Role in the Civil Rights Movement, Part 2

This month, we are taking a look back at some of the landmark legal cases originating out of South Carolina.  Earlier this month, we looked back at Briggs v. Elliott, one of the cases combined into what became known as Brown v. Board of Education.

Today, we are going to look at Edwards v. South Carolina.   This case arose out of an organized march to the South Carolina State House grounds by 187 African-American high school and college students on March 2, 1961.  The group assembled peacefully at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia and marched in groups of fifteen to the South Carolina State House, where they peacefully expressed their grievances regarding civil rights.  Police told them to disperse or face arrest; when they chose not to disperse, instead singing religious and patriotic songs, the protesters were arrested for and later convicted of the common law crime of breach of the peace.

The Supreme Court eventually held in an 8-1 decision that arresting and convicting the petitioners was an infringement of the petitioner’s rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition for a redress of grievances, all rights guaranteed by the Firth Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by the States.  Justice Stewart wrote that the marchers’ actions were a clear example of First Amendment rights in “their most pristine and classic form,” and that states cannot make “the peaceful expression of unpopular views” criminal.

Students can listen to the oral argument before the Supreme Court at Oyez and read the Edwards v. South Carolina opinion here.  You can also watch a video about Edwards v. South Carolina.


Image credit:  The State newspaper, http://www.thestate.com/2013/02/27/2650678/capitol-march-cemented-constitutional.html

Celebrating African American History Month: A Look Back at South Carolina’s Legal Role in the Civil Rights Movement, Part 1

February is African American History Month.  A recent blog entry by the Library of Congress highlights the history behind the yearly commemoration.  The Library of Congress also has an African American History month guide.

This month seems like a good time to look back at some of the landmark legal cases that arose in South Carolina.

Did you know that five cases were combined into the case commonly known as Brown v. Board of Education?  The first case, filed in 1949 in the District Court of South Carolina, was called Briggs v. Elliott, and it came out of Summerton, South Carolina.  The case began in attempt of parents to find a bus so their children could get to school without having to walk miles.  Local school superintendent R.M. Elliott refused to give them just one bus, while white children had 33 buses at their disposal.  The named petitioners, the Briggs, and Rev. Joseph Armstrong DeLaine (pictured), who organized the petition for educational equality, were fired from their jobs, along with others who signed the petition.  DeLaine’s church was later burned and he moved to New York after surviving an attempted drive-by shooting.

The court ruled against the petitioners in a 2-1 decision, ordering schools to be equalized, but not integrated.  The dissent from Judge Waring stated that “[s]egregation is per se inequality.”  The Briggs case was appealed to the Supreme Case, only to be remanded to district court after County school officials sent a document reporting on their progress in equalizing the schools.  The District Court found that progress had been made towards equality.

In May, combined with four other cases into Brown v. Board of Education, the United States overturned racial discrimination in public schools.  Once Brown was decided, the lower court reversed itself and complied with the mandate issued by the Supreme Court in Brown.

Photo credits:
SC Digital Academy: Primary Documents and K-12 Lessons, http://library.sc.edu/blogs/academy/2011/08/29/domestic-terrorism-8-7-4/




Legal History (Week of October 2)

Oct. 2, 1967 – First African-American Supreme Court justice sworn in

Oct. 3, 1995 – O.J. Simpson jury gives verdict

Oct. 4, 1988 – Televangelist indicted

Oct. 5, 1953 – New Supreme Court Chief Justice sworn in

Oct. 7, 1988 – Mike Tyson in divorce court

Oct. 9, 1934 – Indictment in Lindbergh kidnapping case

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 25)

Sept. 25, 1981 – First woman Supreme Court justice

Sept. 26, 1987 – Child-killer sentenced to death

Sept. 27, 1964 – Warren Commission gives verdict on Oswald

Sept. 28, 1999 – Grandparents lose out at the Supreme Court

Sept. 29, 1995 – O.J. Simpson jury gives verdict

Sept. 30, 1946 – Verdicts for Nazis at Nuremberg

Oct. 1, 1995 – Verdicts for terrorist plotters

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 18)

Sept. 18, 1850 – Congress takes a step towards the Civil War.

Sept. 19, 1934 – Arrest in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

Sept. 20, 1999 – Justice for the memory of James Byrd, Jr.

Sept. 21, 1998 – Jimmy Buffet and cheeseburgers.

Sept. 22, 1999 – Justice Department versus Big Tobacco.

Sept. 23, 1957 – Problems at Central High School.

Sept. 24, 1969 – Who are the Chicago Seven?

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 11)

Sept. 11, 2000 –  Alvin the Chipmunk goes to court.

Sept. 12, 1977 – Black South African student leader dies in police custody.

Sept. 13, 1971 – AT-TI-CA!  AT-TI-CA!

Sept. 14, 1901 – President McKinley dies from anarchy.

Sept. 15, 1935 – Dark day for German Jews.

Sept. 17, 1787 – Signatures on the U.S. Constitution.

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 4)

Sept. 4, 1957 –  National Guard at the Little Rock Central High School.

Sept. 5, 1774 – Important consequence from the Boston Tea Party.

Sept. 6, 1995 – O.J. Simpson, Det. Mark Fuhrman, and the Fifth Amendment.

Sept. 7, 1977 – Watergate felon released early from prison.

Sept. 8, 1974 – Former President gets an unconditional pardon.

Sept. 9, 1957 – First significant civil rights legislation since 1875.

Sept. 10, 1963 – George Wallace loses standoff against desegregation.

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)