'I lost a champion’: Lilly Ledbetter mourns Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

'I lost a champion’: Lilly Ledbetter mourns Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death
Lilly Ledbetter said she "lost a champion" when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

When Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hung a framed copy of the law on the wall in her chambers.

The woman the law was named for remembered Ginsburg, who died Friday at age 87, as a strong advocate for women’s rights.

Ginsburg “changed lives that will always be changed simply because of her and her reputation and her fight for the law and equal justice,” Lilly Ledbetter, a Jacksonville, Alabama, resident, told AL.com on Friday night. “I’m just so sad because I lost a dear, dear friend and a champion.”

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Ginsburg was among the four justices who dissented in the 2007 case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Ledbetter, an area manager for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s Gadsden plant, filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against Goodyear in 1998 after her retirement. A colleague sent her a note indicating she was paid unequal pay because she was a woman, AL.com reported. Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month, compared with $4,286 for the lowest-paid male counterpart, according to CNBC.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court justices for the majority did not consider the merits of Ledbetter’s claim, made under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They rejected Ledbetter’s claim because it was filed too long from the time the original decision was made about her pay.

In a rare move, Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, CNBC reported. "In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination. “The ball is in Congress' court ... to correct this Court’s parsimonious reading of Title VII,” Ginsburg wrote.

“I wasn’t in the courtroom when it happened, but I was told by a reporter with the Washington Post that (Ginsburg’s dissent) was loud and clear, you could hear a pin drop in that courtroom,” Ledbetter told AL.com. “And she hit the nail on the head because she said these people don’t know what it’s like in the real world.”

Two years later, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which said each discriminatory paycheck resets the 180-day limit to file a claim.

“Once that verdict came out, it was no longer about Lilly Ledbetter and my family, but it was all about all families all across this nation,” Ledbetter told AL.com. “It’s an American right that people are paid according to what we should be paid under the law.”

Ledbetter said she met Ginsburg in 2010 in the justice’s chambers.

“She showed me a copy of the bill signed by President (Barack) Obama on her wall,” Ledbetter told AL.com. “She just moved into a big corner office.”

Ledbetter said she corresponded frequently with Ginsburg after that meeting. She said the justice sent her a copy of her husband’s cookbook, “Chef Supreme,” and would mail her copies of brochures that featured photos of her and the justice.

Ledbetter said he was amazed by Ginsburg’s toughness to remain on the bench despite battling pancreatic cancer.

“I can’t imagine going through the medical treatments and going to work like she did,” Ledbetter told AL.com. “But she loved the law and loved her job and continued to do her job.”