By: Chantal N. Guerriero, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
For many, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, more aptly known as RBG, symbolized a beacon of hope for change and equality. Now, many hope that her legacy will continue and that RBG’s tragic passing will reignite many of ideals and causes that she worked tirelessly to achieve. To name a few, RBG championed and became a leader and advocate for gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights. RBG’s list of accomplishments in these areas, and the profound progress she was able to make, are countless. They have undoubtedly impacted anti-discrimination laws across the country, as well as in New Jersey.
RBG pushed for gender equality in a number of ways; for one, she advocated for and helped draft the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against pregnant women or treat them differently than those employees with other temporary disabilities. The PDA was put into law in 1978. In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), was similarly amended in 2014 to include protections for pregnant employees. The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
RBG’s dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a case concerning equal pay, also led to the development of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Reflecting upon the majority opinion, RBG noted that pay discrimination often occurs over a period of time, and that “[t]he Court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.” Subsequently, her sentiments were affirmed with the passage of the Act, which extended the statute of limitation period for which victims of unfair pay could bring forward their cases. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations to bring wage claims was also extended to six (6) years in 2019. In order words, New Jersey employees who have wage claims may retroactively recover unpaid wages dating back six years.
RBG also fought for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. In recent news, the Supreme Court ruled that such individuals could not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. The victory came after a long and hard battle for the LGBTQ+ community, and will undoubtedly restore some of the power disparities that exist in the workplace. In New Jersey, the LAD also protects such individuals by prohibiting employers from discriminating against them on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
The profound impact that RBG has had on the progress of the law is difficult to sum up, and her fight for justice would have undoubtedly continued. It is now up to states and the federal government alike to ensure the lasting impact of her work. In her own words, “Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”
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