Equal pay for women has become a rallying cry for Democrats across Texas. Wendy Davis' campaign for governor has seized on the issue, making it central to her messaging.
Attorney General Greg Abbot, who is on the Republican ticket in the race for governor, has dismissed the issue, but was recently criticized when women in his own office were found to be paid less than their male colleagues for the same work.
Last year the Texas Legislature passed a state law allowing women who were discriminated against by their employers in pay to sue in state court. Gov. Rick Perry subsequently vetoed the bill, calling it redundant:
"Texas' commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission." - Gov. Rick Perry
The federal law Perry refers to is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women to sue in federal court. The state version is better, said advocates, because it allowed for a quicker response at the local level, criticizing the federal court system as underfunded and slow. The Texas Association of Business wrote Perry to support a veto, arguing that the bill increased cumbersome regulation and frivolous lawsuits.
“Asking an employer to be responsible for decisions that were made 10 or 15 years ago just does not work. In many cases no one would be around that would know anything about why those decisions were made at the time. The lack of a statute of limitations for filing these cases is bad for business, and this bill is bad for business, pure and simple.” - Bill Hammond, president TAB
44 states have implemented similar statutes and advocates argue they haven't seen the kind of doom saying that opponents predicted, but instead have seen employers think twice before discriminatory pay.
Should the State of Texas reconsider fair pay in Texas?
- Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center
- Shafeeqa Watkins Giarratani, attorney with Fulbright & Jaworksi representing the Texas Association of Business
*This is the first segment in the April 2 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.