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Actions That Changed the Law: Ledbetter v. Goodyear


In 1998, when Lilly Ledbetter filed her complaint of wage discrimination against the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, her goal was to get equal pay for equal work because that was the law. She had no idea that her decision would eventually involve all three branches of government and result in a law with her name on it: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

In our constitutional democracy, laws are not permanent. As society changes, new laws are passed and old ones may be amended or repealed by the people through their representatives in Congress. The Constitution gives this authority and power to U.S. citizens.

Even when the Supreme Court makes an unpopular ruling on a statutory question, as it did in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. (2007), the legislative process can be activated by the people through their congressional representatives to make a new law. This is what happened when Lilly Ledbetter decided to speak up and get involved. She wanted to make a difference, and she did. Today, because of Ledbetter, the process that employees must follow to recover discriminatory pay is more fair.

This lesson is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Call to Act: Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.,” which tells the law-changing story behind the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Students gain insight into law-making process, consider how statutory decisions made by the Supreme Court can prompt better laws, and learn about the rights and responsibilities they will have when they enter the workforce.

The estimated time for this lesson is four days.

Download the lesson plan