AKRON (Jan. 27, 2003) — An Alabama jury has awarded $3.8 million to a former Goodyear employee who said she was paid less than men in similar positions at the tire plant in which she worked, attorneys said.
Lilly M. Ledbetter, 64, of Jacksonville sued Akron-based Goodyear in 1999 for wage discrimination. The jury of five men and seven women awarded the amount Jan. 24.
Mike Quinn and Jon Goldfarb, Birmingham attorneys representing Ms. Ledbetter, said she started working at Goodyear's Gadsden, Ala., plant in 1979 and quickly became an area supervisor.
During her years in that position, she didn't realize she was being paid less than her male counterparts with similar seniority, he said.
Mr. Quinn said Ms. Ledbetter made about $3,700 a month, compared to some male employees' salary of $6,000 a month.
“There was no doubt she was considerably lower,” he said.
Ms. Ledbetter took an early retirement in November 1998, Mr. Quinn said.
Clint Smith, manager of communications for Goodyear's North American Tire, said the company had not filed an appeal as of Jan. 27, but it is an open option. He said federal law caps compensatory and punitive damages in similar cases at $300,000.
“We believe there are several issues that warrant appeal,” he said.
The Gadsden factory—which has been operating since 1929 and makes several lines of Goodyear's consumer tires—employs about 1,400 workers, he said.
Mr. Goldfarb said two other former female employees of the plant testified to similar experiences as Ms. Ledbetter. In the city of roughly 38,000, he said the plant may have taken on the air of a “good old boy” network. “When you get that system, a woman can never fit in,” he said.
Mr. Smith, who also worked at the plant in 1998, declined to comment on that point.