Ledbetter v .Goodyear Tire & Rubber:
Although I have no background at all in employment law, I was very interested in yesterday's 5-4 decision in Ledbetter v. Gooyear Tire and Rubber.

  The issue in the case was whether Ledbetter had filed her employment discrimination case before the EEOC in time: Federal law requires that a case must be filed within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for about ten years, and after she retired in 1998 she sued Goodyear for giving her low raises on account of her gender throughout the term of her employment. Goodyear responded that under federal law she could only sue for any discrimination within the last 180 days, and that no discrimination occurred within the 180-day window.

  Five Justices agreed with Goodyear: Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. According to the majority, the case was simple and the result was clear based on text and a string of precedents. To figure out how the 180 day clock runs, you just identify the alleged discriminatory act and then count the 180 days. The discriminatory act was the discriminatory raise, so Ledbetter couldn't sue over discriminatory raises from years earlier. The majority seems sort of perplexed that you could look at the case differently; after summarizing an earlier precedent that pointed to the same result, Justice Alito wrote, "It would be difficult to speak to the point more directly."

  Justice Ginsburg dissented, joined by Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. Although Ginsburg did rely on one prior precedent, much of her opinion was based on policy concerns. According to Ginsburg, differences in pay increases may be hard to identify at first, and employees may not want to sue over them when they're unclear. Requiring employees to sue within 180 days of the discriminatory raise would gut the statute, because few cases would be brought. As a result, "the unlawful employment practice" should be read as the payment of the salary, rather than the pay raise itself; because pay raises are usually cumulative, that would let an employee sue for a discriminatory pay raise long outside the 180 day window.

  It's a very interesting case, I think. I don't know enough to know which side is right, as I haven't read the prior precedents or studied the statute. I do find myself inclined towards Alito's approach because of its traditional focus on text and precedent, but without delving into the cases I can't be certain.