Four years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law, Census data shows women in West Virginia still earn just 70 cents on average for every $1 paid to a man.
In Ohio, that figure is 77 cents.
The act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 29, 2009. It amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Photo by Joselyn King
Ohio County sheriff’s Deputy Nicole Seifert provides security at the City-County Building in Wheeling on Tuesday.
Because of the bill, the 180-day time limit to file a discrimination complaint now resets with each new paycheck that reflects discriminatory compensation.
Ledbetter was a production supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama who filed a lawsuit regarding pay discrimination in 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Ledbetter in 2007, noting the discriminatory decisions related to her pay occurred well before the 180-day statute of limitations in which she could file a lawsuit.
"Like any female professional and mother, I believe we must reach the point where women who are performing similar jobs to their male counterparts are compensated equally," Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Tuesday. "Women make up 47 percent of the U.S. work force and are in higher leadership positions than ever before. There's no question that they should be paid accordingly. However, the Lilly Ledbetter act goes beyond the shared and laudable goal of equal pay for equal work by focusing more on lawsuits rather than the root of pay discrimination."
Census Bureau data compiled in 2011 indicates women in West Virginia earn, on average, about 70 cents for every dollar paid to men.
The annual median salary for men is $42,125 but for women it is $29,688, resulting in a pay gap of $12,437 a year, according to the data.
Women in Ohio don't fare much better, earning 77 percent of what men do in the Buckeye State. The census data lists the median salary for men in Ohio at $46,176, while for women it stands at $35,746 - a difference of $10,430 annually.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said there is "nothing fair" about the paycheck gap between men and women in West Virginia.
"On the four-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, it's past time that we correct this unfairness to make sure that women are paid what they deserve ... ," he said. "It shouldn't matter whether you're a woman or a man - you should be treated fairly no matter what."
Ohio County Clerk Brenda Miller pointed out that women working in government often are paid the same as their male counterparts, as the wages for their jobs typically are set by statute. In West Virginia, more women hold the job of county clerk than do men, but the men and women are paid equally, she said.
Ohio County sheriff's Deputy Nicole Seifert said she doesn't see pay disparities between men and women who work in the department, and that they are "absolutely" treated the same.
In the private sector, wage inequality has improved over the years according to Linda Miller, manager of the WesBanco branch in McMechen.
"We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go," she said. "I've been in banking for 42 years, and I have seen a lot. It's getting better, but there's still room for improvement."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called Ledbetter "a hero."
"Thanks to Lilly, the law now recognizes that each and every unfair paycheck is discrimination that must be remedied ... ," he said.