Earlier this week, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) won passage from the Senate Economic Development Committee of a version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for Texas. Senate Bill 248 would better empower Texas victims of wage discrimination to seek restitution in state court, giving them the same rights that they now have in federal court.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill that President Obama signed into law in January 2009. Like the federal law, Senator Davis's bill would make it so that the time period in which a person can file a wage discrimination claim is reset every time a person receives a discriminatory paycheck. Without this law in place, a complainant only has 180 days from the time the first discriminatory paycheck is issued.
According to Senator Davis, “Because many businesses prohibit disclosure of salary information by employees, a woman won't know about the discrimination and might be fired merely for asking about salaries. As a consequence, employers are rewarded for paying discriminatory wages, if they can get away with doing it for more than 180 days without a woman's knowledge.”
Nationwide, women still make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Over the course of a woman's career, that amounts to $430,000 in lost wages. Texas does slightly better than the national average, with women making 82 cents on the dollar compared to men. Sadly, this puts Texas as the twelfth-lowest wage gap in the country, even with women's work equal to four-fifths that of men.
This development also comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Labor is removing some of its restrictions on investigating pay discrimination as part of the agenda of the President's National Equal Pay Task Force.