Nationally, with local branch support, the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund (LAF) works to combat sex discrimination in higher education and the workplace. LAF initiatives include community and campus outreach programs, a resource library and online advocacy tools, a Legal Referral Network, and various research reports. AAUW staff assesses which workplace sex discrimination cases have the potential to make a difference for all women and follows them through to resolution. To pursue sex discrimination cases through lengthy court battles takes huge amounts of money. It is only through a combination of supporting organizations that victory is ever achieved. AAUW through LAF is one of those.
AAUW Morgan Hill members meet Lily Ledbetter, whose discrimination law suit was supported by AAUW’s LAF.
LAF Funding of Specific Cases
The most well-known of the legal cases partially funded through LAF resulted in the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1964 Act placed a 180-day statue of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit dating from the initial discriminatory wage decision. The 2009 Act changed the date from the initial wage decision to the date of the most recent paycheck.
The length of time that even this one case took to wind through the court system, eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, is an indication of the vast amount of money needed in many, if not most, cases involving sex discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter first filed, alleging pay discrimination by her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, in 1998. Courts gave opposing opinions and finally, in 2007, the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, ruled against her. That pushed the issue back to the legislature and resulted in the 2009 amendment to the Civil Rights Act. Eleven years of legal fisticuffs means the expenditure of thousands upon thousands of dollars.
In a case closer to home, LAF supported plaintiffs and their legal team for the case Mansourian, et al. v. Regents of the University of California, et al. The case settled in favor of the plaintiffs in February 2012. In this case, four female current and former students at the University of California-Davis and former members of the university’s wrestling team, sued the Regents of the University of California for sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for failing to provide them with equal athletic participation opportunities; equal athletic financial assistance opportunities; and retaliating against them for complaining about sex discrimination.
LAF Cases – Click here for a list of sex discrimination cases supported by AAUW nationally. Some 20 percent of all LAF cases originate in California.