Rick Perry Vetoes Texas Lilly Ledbetter Act, Putting Pay Discrimination Ahead Of Texas Families

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Rick Perry really has it in for the women of Texas this week.

As if his efforts to all-but-ban abortion in Texas weren't enough, now Rick Perry has vetoed the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have made clear that women have the right to sue over gender-based pay discrimination and extend the time for that suit to 180 days after the last discriminatory check.

This law was deemed necessary for Texas women to seek legal redress in state court over gender-based pay discrimination. From Texas Employment Law Update:

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals ruled that the provisions of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 extending the charge filing deadlines for certain pay discrimination claims should not be automatically applied to pay discrimination claims arising under state law.

Texas courts are refusing to recognize the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act without an equivalent state law. This bill would have remedied that.

This is a major economic issue for Texas: if working women are paid less than men for the same day's labor, then they're being denied the economic opportunity to fully participate in society that they've earned. If working mothers are shortchanged on their paychecks, it hurts the entire family — and Texas school children have suffered enough at the hands of the Republican Legislature as it is.

Instead of giving Texas women and families the legal capability to address sex-based pay discrimination in all of our Texas courts, Rick Perry reminded us why he's the worst governor in the history of Texas with his veto of this common sense legislation.

Below the jump, find out why the federal law isn't necessarily enough here in Texas, and why our state needs its own legislation to make sure women have the right to seek redress for gender-based pay discrimination.Progress Texas has the details about why this bill was necessary in Texas.

The following bullet points are summarized from the bill analysis for HB 950:

  • The “Fort Worth Court of Appeals ruled recently…that Lilly Ledbetter protections do not apply to state cases absent action by the legislature”
  • The state law is needed to “provide uniformity between state and federal anti-discrimination laws so that employees and employers have consistent laws governing employment relations”
  • Further, the law will “allow parties to proceed in a nearby state court, while at the same time avoid the increased expense of having to proceed in a federal court which may be far away”
  • Finally, the Texas Supreme Court issued a decision on August 31, 2012 in Prairie View A&M v. Chatha, and made it clear that Texas law does not provide the protections of the Lilly Ledbetter Act

This is an unconscionable veto of a common sense bill that passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Here in Texas, women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men, which gives Texas the twelfth-lowest wage gap in the country, even with women's work equal to four-fifths of that of men. 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. The pay gap is even worse for women of color and in female-dominated industries.

Yes, there is a federal law that prevents sex-based pay discrimination, but every Texas woman who finds out that she's being paid less than a man to do the same day's work shouldn't be forced to find a lawyer who will take her case to federal court. This law, which is already on the books in 42 other states, would have affirmed that Texas employers may not pay women less, and prevented courts in Texas from tossing out pay discrimination cases, as outlined above.

Senator Wendy Davis, who sponsored the bill in the State Senate, made the following statement at a press conference in response to the veto:

“The veto – combined with his call to add a number of controversial bills that would adversely affect women's health – exhibits a concerted effort by the Governor to attack and erode women's rights and quality of life. I think Texans everywhere are not just disappointed but shocked that Governor Perry has vetoed bipartisan legislation to make sure that Texans receive equal pay for equal work. Texas families all across our state whether they are supported by single mothers or by working mothers and fathers deserve to be paid fairly for the work that they do. By vetoing the Equal Pay for Equal Work bill, Governor Perry shows a callous disregard for the wages that are required to support Texas families.”

Rick Perry is a disaster for Texas women and families on so many levels. This veto serves as a reminder that our governor cares little about the people he supposedly leads. Not content to wage war merely on women's access to healthcare, now he's determined to make it as difficult as possible for Texas women to seek redress for sex-based pay discrimination.

Rick Perry may think his party won't mind this veto and that he's got nothing to fear at the ballot box in 2014 or 2016. Texas women need to get ready to show him how wrong he is.

Update 4:14 pm

I wanted to clarify more about why the federal law is simply not enough for the women and families impacted by this senseless, patronizing veto.  

Women — particularly single mothers and poor women earning an hourly wage — should not be forced to turn to the federal court system to address basic pay discrimination. It is problematic to suggest that all of the women in Texas on the receiving end of sex-based pay discrimination have the means or agency to find a federal lawyer who will take their case and argue it (potentially for free) until the woman prevails in her individual case.

How many grocery store checkers and secretaries and shop clerks and assembly line workers are going to have the means or ability to do that? A Texas law would have made it so much more straightforward and enforceable.

And let's be clear, this isn't just about lawsuits. It's about preventing the practice of sex-based pay discrimination in the first place.

A Texas law would have made it much more risky for an employer to engage in pay discrimination by lowering the barriers to seeking redress. How many women are going to have the means and opportunity to take a case to Federal court in the first place?

The federal law is unfortunately not really an answer for the vast majority of impacted women and families here in Texas. There is such a huge difference between an employer seeing a record of lawsuits finding against pay discrimination in THIS STATE to curtail this behavior than a far-away federal law.

That's why the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was so important, and why Perry's veto is so truly deplorable — it will just further enshrine the culture of pay discrimination by telling employers that the victims will have a hell of a time fighting back.  


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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