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Gender Discrimination (Goodyear)

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The gender-based wage gap in the United States is persistent and well-documented. Although researchers disagree about the size of the gap, almost all agree that it exists and is significant. (Brake & Grossman, 2007). Lilly Ledbetter, an employee for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for 19 years, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging discrimination in pay on the basis of her gender in 1998 and was awarded $3.3 million in back pay and punitive damages. (Fieser, 2015). In her complaint, Lily explained how she received an anonymous note that showed the salaries of three male colleagues.  Her monthly pay of $3,727 was much lower than the $5,236 a comparable male manager made.  Unfortunately, the verdict was reversed by an appeals court and upheld in a staggering decision by the Supreme Court in 2007. The Supreme Court argued that her complaint was too late because it was made more than 180 days after the initial discriminatory paycheck, even though Lilly had no way of knowing then of such a pay discrepancy (Lillyledbetter.com, 2011). This decision appeared to undermine the goal of equalizing pay between genders, which remains troubling. 

Due to misconceptions about the Ledbetter decision and its reach, it played a key role in the push for two pieces of federal pay legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, enacted in 2009,34 and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has not passed the Senate yet, but was passed by the House under Democratic control in the 110th and 111th Congresses. (Bader, 2013) The Ledbetter Act changes federal law to restart the clock on the deadline for suing each time an employee is paid a paycheck affected by an allegedly discriminatory pay decision.  This law will hold companies accountable for a longer period of time if a person wanted to bring a suit based on pay discrimination as the clock would reset each time a person received a discriminatory paycheck.

In this case, I believe that Goodyear was morally wrong for the years of unequal pay given to Lilly due to her gender.  In deontology, the moral good is duty.  Duty is mentioned in reference to the universal moral law, also known as the Categorical Imperative.  In this ethical theory presented, I want to focus on two of the three formulations.  One is to act only upon those actions that can be universalized as a moral guide.  Basically, follow a moral path that you would want others to follow.  Two is that we should not use persons as means to an end, only as ends in themselves. In a nutshell, you should not deny a person autonomy and they should be treated with dignity and respect as they are rational beings. (Dr. Postigo, 2015)

Lilly Ledbetter was given unequal compensation for most of her tenure at Goodyear.  She didn’t become aware of this until it was brought to her attention anonymously that a male co-worker who had the same experience and tenure at the company as her, was making a significantly larger sum that she was.  Denying a person fair pay takes away a person’s autonomy by not allowing them to make the decision to leave and seek other employment for higher pay or deciding to stay despite the large pay gap.  Goodyear states on their website under shared values that they are committed to acting with honesty, integrity and respect, but they did not stand by this value with Lilly Ledbetter.


Fieser, J. (2015). Introduction to business ethics [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Bader. H. (2013). Misconceptions about Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Engage, 13(3), 26-30. Retrieved from http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/detail/misconceptions-about-ledbetter-v-goodyear-tire-rubber-co

Brake, D. L., & Grossman, J. L. (2007). Title VII’s protection against pay discrimination: The impact of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Regional Labor Review, 10(1), 28-36. Retrieved from http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/academics/colleges/hclas/cld/cld_rlr_fall07_title7_grossman.pdf

By Dr. Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo (2015), Knowledge-Sharing Archives, Ashford University

Mission & Values. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2016, from https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/about/mission.html

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