State Senator Wendy Davis Wants To Bring Federal Fair Pay Laws for Women To Texas

wendy davis.jpg
Wendy Davis

There was an interesting, widely under-reported battle going on in the state legislature this morning, and it hinged around consistently badass Fort Worth state Senator Wendy Davis. Back in January, Davis filed SB 248, a bill that would bring the Lilly Ledbetter Act to Texas. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into federal law in 2009, the first bill of President Obama's administration. It makes it easier for employees to file pay discrimination complaints by extending the period of time in which they can do so; it's named after a woman who unsuccessfully sued Goodyear for pay discrimination, and is meant to help address the persistent pay gap between men and women. (Interesting to note, though: the average wage gap in Texas is actually slightly smaller than in many other U.S. states. We rank 12th in the country for pay equity, with an average gap of 18 cents or so, versus the 23-cent national average.)

As former Observer-er Andrea Grimes reports at RH Reality Check, supporters gathered in Austin this morning to testify on behalf of Davis's bill in front of the Senate's Committee on Economic Development. One of them was Tiffany Bishop, a U.S. Navy veteran who came to work at a Texas call center after serving in Iraq.

When Bishop compared notes with a male coworker and learned that she earned less than him, Grimes writes, she filed a complaint. She was promptly disciplined for doing so. Her male coworker was disciplined too, simply for sharing his pay information.

Bishop told lawmakers that she was shocked to learn how little recourse she had under state law, which requires her to make a complaint "not later than the 180th day after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." That's a tough thing to do when you don't know it's happening, and in a climate where most employees are actively or tacitly discouraged from discussing pay information with one another.

Davis's bill, like Ledbetter, essentially re-sets the clock in filing complaints, by saying that an illegal employment practice happens each time "a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted," whenever an individual is subjected to "a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice," or whenever an individual is "adversely affected" by discriminatory compensation.

The pushback against the federal law largely came from Republican lawmakers, who argued that the bill would simply give rise to more employment lawsuits. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for one, called it "a boon to trial lawyers." Any opposition to the state law -- and we're sure there'll be plenty of it -- will likely take the same tack.

"If the military gets it, and the federal government gets it," Bishop told lawmakers this morning, "It's about time the state of Texas gets it as well."

The bill is currently pending in committee. If it makes it out of there alive, it'll soon come up for a vote in the Senate. In the meantime, to stave off any arguments in the comments section about whether pay discrimination is a real thing, here's the Texas Tribune's handy and quite comprehensive guide to the wage gap in Texas.



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10 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I like Wendy OK, but I can't really get too worked up over this particular issue. Things have changed drastically for the better for women in the last 25 years in this country, employment-wise.


We're all free agents in the workforce, free to bargain for the best that we can get. There may be, and probably are still, some historical and institutional forces at work that shore up that gap, but the days of the "Good ol' boy" network keeping the silly vags in the dark about pay are all but gone, anymore.


If you are in the dark about your salary or position relative to others, it's just as likely you've got a female boss "keeping you down" these days to make her own bottom line look better.

bifftannen
bifftannen

The company that repremanded the employees for discussing their pay should be dealt with, too. That is how companies keep wages depressed by seeding "You shouldn't compare salaries". Keeps everybody in the dark.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

You misunderstand the law.  Every time the men and women get paid, the 180 day clock restarts.  The issue is not that the lawsuit cannot proceed.  It is that the lawyers can only get 180 days of damages.  Since class actions are also very difficult, the award money is very small from which the lawyers to grab their 40%.  They wanted to get cases of large groups over decades of salaries translating to big legal payday for the attorneys.  The law lets cases go forward, but makes them unappealing to the trial lawyers.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

let me be the a-hole.  It seems that statistically women will generally have lower incomes due to the whole pregnancy thing.  I'm support the spirit of this bill, I just don't know how it would work.  I think a woman with the same experience and qualifications should earn the same.  How do you control for those who aren't in the workforce uninterrupted?  Not that seniority is the best basis for compensation, I think much of this is/will work itself out.  Sometimes, laws like these help support that, I hope it's effective

TexMarine
TexMarine

@TheCredibleHulk I notice how those with limited or no corporate experience have all the opinions about what goes on in the corporate world. I'm in IT , and I can tell you, if we paid everyone with the same position the same salary, we'd end up losing all the top talent, as they'd be able to make more elsewhere or as independent contractors.  when I was in the military, base pay was equal, and skill, effort, and ethic certainly weren't.  this wont work, it just makes the people who aren't living with the effects of mandatory equality feel better about themselves.

James080
James080

@scottindallas 

Really, its a common sense fix to the law. How can anyone defend establishing a statute of limitations that will often expire before the unlawful employment practice is discovered?

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@scottindallas You're right that the pay gap seems to be smaller between men and women when they're younger -- i.e., when they don't have kids. It still exists, but it's smaller. Having children does seem to work against women in the workforce, but it's not quite in the way that you might think. 

There's a Stanford study, which you can see here: http://gender.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/motherhoodpenalty_0.pdf. This was a lab experiment, following up on a lot of similar studies. It found that just the perception that a woman was a mother affected lots of things, including starting salary and "perceived competence." In other words, women (and people of color, for that matter) start out being paid less than white men, a problem that only worsens when they do something most people choose to do -- have children. 

You're not an a-hole, Scott. And you can say asshole around here, we don't mind.        

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@James080 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @scottindallas I didn't even read the article.  I will if this bill persists, or the conversation require it.  My comments were general only, as directed towards any effort at affirmative action.  I believe in the court's system, though I do think it's a bit unreasonable to go too far back--sorry, no reparations either.  Though, we should perhaps actually consider "reparations" to Blacks right now for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.  What a way to stimulate the economy; and, reaching like Paul Rubio to pick up the ASSHOLE mantle, then they can't bitch.  This would be like a whole new weapon, a veritable mace akin to "libtard" that could be used against the Blacks, Obama voters, or 47%. 

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