Whether a claimant alleging illegal pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may use evidence of an allegedly discriminatory act from outside the statutory time limit to prove that pay she received within the statutory period was illegally discriminatory.
Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging illegal pay discrimination. Prior to filing suit, Ledbetter filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as required under Title VII, and thereby set the statutory period of her suit to 180 days before she filed the complaint with the Commission. At trial, Ledbetter relied on evidence of allegedly discriminatory salary reviews that occurred before the statutory period to prove that the amount of the paychecks that she received within the statutory period were discriminatorily low. The jury found that Goodyear had paid Ledbetter a lower salary because of unlawful sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Goodyear appealed, arguing that Title VII’s statutory time period should limit Ledbetter’s evidence to the two incidents of allegedly discriminatory conduct that occurred within the statutory period. Further, Goodyear argued that it did not illegally discriminate against Ledbetter during either incident. The Eleventh Circuit agreed, and dismissed the case. The Court’s decision in this case will affect employees’ ability to file equal pay claims under Title VII, as well as employers’ ability to defend themselves against such claims.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
Whether and under what circumstances a plaintiff may bring an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging illegal pay discrimination when the disparate pay is received during the statutory limitations period, but is the result of intentionally discriminatory pay decisions that occurred outside the limitations period.