Women have always been resilient and triumphant when it came to fighting for or obtaining the same rights afforded to men. Throughout the history of the United States, women were not always seen or treated as equals to their male counterparts. If you have ever watched an old movie, you hear statements like “a woman should be seen not heard” or “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”. There was also a time in history when women were not afforded the right to vote or work in certain industries. When women entered the workforce, there were still levels of discrimination being practiced. Based on Title IV of the civil rights act of 1964, it strictly prohibits gender discrimination and states all individuals should be paid equally. Although women have made progress and experienced tremendous advances in all industries, gender discrimination still lingers throughout multiple companies. Women still see pay differences that favors men over women. “Data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics state that women earned 80 cents for every dollar that men earned in 2008 and in 2009” (Furchtgott-Roth, 2010, pg. 2). This paper discusses the unethical behavior displayed in the case of Ledbetter vs Goodyear Tire and rubber company. In this paper I will defend the view that, discrimination against women is morally unjust and creates inequality amongst workers in the work place.
The moral problem stated within the 1979 case of Ledbetter V. Goodyear, is the company Goodyear displayed clear gender discrimination against Lilly Ledbetter because she was a female working in a male dominated industry. According to Feiser (2015), discrimination “is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of people on arbitrary grounds, such as race, gender, or age, which results in denial of opportunity, such as in public accommodations or employment” (section 5.1). She was employed as a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and rubber for twenty years. Ms. Ledbetter was paid a fraction less than her male counterparts. During this time, she was moved to undesirable positions within the company (Brake & Grossman, 2007, para 2). It was her claim that that she was denied raises due to her performance evaluations. It was also her claim that she always noticed differential treatment between her and her male colleagues but did not know how they were related to forms of discrimination. Ultimately, she decided to take her case to a civil court that awarded her back pay. Goodyear appealed the decisions which was then heard in front of the Supreme Court and the previous ruling was reversed. Based on the case, it was stated that it surpassed the 180 days that an individual must file, therefore it was too late. According to Brake & Grossman (2007), “Title VII provides that an EEOC charge must be brought within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred” (para 2).
Thesis and Ethical Theory
Gender discrimination against women is morally unjust and creates inequality amongst workers in the work place. The ethical theory that best aligns with this case is deontology. Duty ethics expresses that we should do what is right at all times. It defines moral good as duty and a moral right. It was Goodyear duty to ensure all members were paid equally but there was a clear sense of inequality amongst the workers in the workplace. You should be paid based on performance rather than the individual’s gender. According to Zuniga and Postigo (2015), it is “understood as that which is governed by the categorical imperative” (slide 9). Ledbetter initially didn’t realize that she was paid less than the male supervisors in the company. The managers did not do the right thing and allowed her to be discriminated against. Members shall be should treated fairly without regards for race, gender, age etc. She was the only woman working in her company that treated her less than. In the court, “Ledbetter introduced evidence that during the course of her employment several supervisors had given her poor evaluations because of her sex” (LEDBETTER v. GOODYEAR, 2007). “People are not tools or objects that we should manipulate for our own gratification” (Feiser, 2015, section 1.3). The duty theory displays the golden rule to “do unto others as you would do unto you” in which the company failed to do. The theory also expressed the idea that right versus wrong in the case of Ledbetter versus Goodyear, “a jury concluded she had indeed suffered illegal pay discrimination on the basis of sex. Her salary was as much as 40 percent lower than that of the lowest-paid male supervisor” (Brake & Grossman, 2007, para 2). The pay increase was based on performance ranking which was determined by business managers. According to Cimpl-Wiemer (2008) “As a result of this system, Ledbetter often did not receive a yearly raise, or if she did, it was significantly smaller than her male counterparts. By 1997, she was making fifteen percent less than the lowest paid male area manager and forty percent less than male area managers with ―equal or less seniority” (p.370). An anonymous note informed Ledbetter that men in the same position were making a higher wage than her, this action of the company was morally wrong.
The reason to support my thesis is that companies should pay each individual equal pay without discrimination. Discrimination in any form is unethical and should be addressed. According to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (n.d), “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions” (para 1). This law protected individuals against discrimination of any kind. According to Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (2008), “after her November 1998 retirement, she filed suit, asserting, among other things, a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” (para 1). Ledbetter initially won the case and was awarded back pay against the company Goodyear. The company then appealed the ruling and the case was heard in front of the Supreme Court. She lost with a Supreme Court ruling of 5-4 due to the untimely manner in which the incident was reported. According to Bader (2013), “The Supreme Court said that, in most cases, employees should file an EEOC complaint within 180 days of their first discriminatory paycheck, if they want to sue under the federal anti-discrimination law with the shortest deadline, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act” (para 2). There was no other reason that she should have been paid less than her male counterparts. Based on the law, she should have been afforded the same opportunities within the company.
Ledbetter should have been protected by the law. Her case was rejected in the Supreme Court with a 5-4 ruling because of the time frame in which she filed the charges. Goodyear challenged her suit with an appeal even though they knew they were in the wrong. This also shows how this company thrives in capitalism. According to Feiser (2015), capitalism is the theory which believes that “personal self-interest, not community interest, motivates business activity” (section 2.1). The company had its best interest in mind for their own personal interest and gain, regardless of how qualified Ledbetter was in her department. Initially, when Ledbetter won the settlement, Goodyear could have ceased their claims and allowed her to move on because there was evidence that definitively showed discriminatory actions. Instead they filed an appeal which was ultimately won in the Supreme Court. The company’s main focus was profit even if it meant that a former employee would suffer.
Duty ethics is the best theory for this case because it speaks about treating all people with respect (Zuniga and postigo, 2015, slide 9). It also points out that individuals should always make an effort to do what is right. The ethical theory of utilitarianism would not work better than the theory of deontology because the company and the courts would have looked as the consequences of their decisions in which they did not. Their actions caused her to lose a fraction of what she could have save towards retirement. They should have taken Ledbetter’s situation and make a decision based on the best consequences. Utilitarianism also looks to maximize pleasure and reduce suffering which in this case of Ledbetter vs. Goodyear, its management thought is was justifiable to not give Ledbetter fair evaluations causing maximum suffering and reduced pleasure. The theory of utilitarianism would not apply correctly in this case. They had a duty to perform what was right and they failed to do to pay Ledbetter an equal salary as a dutiful right. If they had treated her equally, they could have broken the barrier that made it acceptable to discriminate against women. The company would have thrived because they were willing to diversify their company. This would have promoted a happier and more conducive environment for all of the workers. Regardless of gender, she should not have received unfavorable work evaluations which ultimately resulted in her not obtaining a pay increase. Deontology calls for equality in pay regardless of sex because that is a dutiful right and the morally correct thing to do.
Objection to the Thesis
Goodyear is a successful company that has been around for many years. Would they really be committed to tarnishing their brand by performing unethical acts of discrimination? This is highly unlikely when they want to reach all demographics to have them purchase their items. A possible rebuttal would be that the general manger of that particular store did not taking the situation serious because she was a woman. He may have been ignorant to ways of identifying discrimination. Goodyear thought they did the right thing when they decided not to pay Ledbetter. It is possible that the job was originally categorized as one for just men. In the eyes of the manager, it is possible that he believed that based on the skills of Ledbetter compared to the other male supervisors, she was not as competent and therefore, deserved different wages. According to the US Department of Labor (2015), “There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap” (pg.1). There are also instances where women may need more time off because of a birth of a child or needing additional child care, sick days to take care of children etc. Therefore, they could have been justifiable in their reasoning for paying her less money.
Gender discrimination could only be justified based on the qualifications of that job. According to Feiser (2015), “that is, qualifications that relate to an essential job duty and are “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise” (section 5.3). For example, in the military, there are certain occupations that women cannot have such as being a navy seal or infantrymen in the army. Being that Ledbetter was hired, it shows the position was not advertised as one only for men. Also, there were other women who worked in the factory. If there are no qualification such as physical ability, certain weights to carry etc. than discrimination is not justifiable. There are no jobs that are advertised as “for women only” or “or males only”. Jobs that were once one occupied by one sex has now been integrated. Title IV was birthed to protect any and every one from discrimination based on gender. Gender Discrimination is morally wrong whichever way you look at it.
In conclusion, the company Goodyear acted in an unethical manner. The behavior to openly discriminate against Ledbetter was accepted by the company without intervention or reprimand. Women are expected to work hard, if not harder than men, thus they should be paid an equal wage. Companies needs to formally train all employees and inform them that there are consequences to their actions. In terms of Ledbetter, she received a fraction of what should have been entitled to her therefore, making her earnings toward retirement much smaller than her male counterparts. You cannot judge an individual by the colors of their skin, age, race and ultimately their gender.