Ledbetter worked for over two decades in an Alabama Goodyear Factory. After enduring years of grueling labor, sexual harassment and favoritism, Ledbetter discovered that she was being paid significantly less than the men doing the same job. She sued Goodyear and was awarded $3.3 million dollars (an amount that was later reduced, but one that Ledbetter never received) but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it because she filed her claim more than 180 days after getting her first discriminatory paycheck.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read Ledbetter’s dissent and told Congress that they needed to look further into the matter. Ledbetter inspired President Obama’s first major piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009, which states that the 180 day statute of limitations on filing an equal pay lawsuit resets with every new paycheck that is affected by that previous discrimination.
In a statement, Jon Goldfarb, the attorney in charge of Ledbetter’s case gave insight on the choice of Feldman.
Lilly chose Rachel over many industry heavyweights because of her passion and because she’s a filmmaker, not an executive. We knew she was a perfect fit because of her own parallel struggles with employment equity for women in Hollywood.
Feldman currently teaches directing at USC and has worked on films and series for ABC, Disney, CBS, Fox and many others. Feldman told Women and Hollywood why directing Ledbetter’s story is such an important project.
I grew up in the sixties, a time when it was acceptable for men to steal a pinch here or there, whenever they wanted. I had two older brothers and saw how the world treated them differently. Then I attended Sarah Lawrence College and realized I had a voice and it was valuable. As my skill level developed and I gained artistic confidence I came to Hollywood. But after working in this environment for over 2 decades, I’m appalled by how little has changed during the trajectory of my own life. I’m still removed as director from my own projects so a male can replace me, or I’m told that my experience directing 60 minutes doesn’t translate to 90 minutes. Lilly’s struggles with Fair Pay may not be the exact issues that my colleagues and I endure. I have never been punished by being forced to work with toxic materials nor been driven off the road by angry employers, but not having fair opportunity has a tremendous impact on the way I feed my family. Lilly’s issues are universal to all women who have been treated unfairly by their industry and I feel charged to champion this important message to every woman who struggles with employment equity.