September 21, 2017  

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Lilly Ledbetter Guest Speaker for March 1 University Forum

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Lilly Ledbetter

She took on forces bigger and more powerful than herself in staring down workplace discrimination, and for her efforts was immortalized with legislation bearing her name.  

Lilly Ledbetter, the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, is guest speaker for the University of Southern Mississippi’s University Forum Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus. Her presentation, titled “Grace and Grit,” will cover her fight for equal pay for women that went all the way to the federal government.

Nearly 20 years after Ledbetter started work at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Ala., she discovered she was being paid significantly less than her male colleagues. Following years of discrimination and harassment, Ledbetter sued for sex discrimination in pay under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964.  Though she won at the District Court, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision and the Supreme Court also ruled against her. 

Yet, even after eight years of fighting in the courts, she continued her battle against sex discrimination with a two-year lobbying effort that resulted in passage by the U.S. Congress of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The first act signed into law by President Barack Obama, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act makes it easier for women to redress pay disparities.  

“This act is extremely important for women fighting against discrimination because it prevents employers from avoiding lawsuits due time limitations on the filing of complaints,” said Dr. Kate Greene, associate professor of political science at USM. “Lilly Ledbetter’s victory in Congress has made the one real venue women have when facing discrimination in pay - the courts - available to us again and on better terms.”

University Forum at Southern Miss is presented by the Honors College. Admission is free and members of the campus and surrounding communities are invited. For more information, visit http://www.usm.edu/honors/university-forum or e-mail forum@usm.edu.