The Equal Pay Act is a statute that requires that women be paid the same as men who perform the same work. The Equal Pay Act was passed in the 1970’s as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against minorities. Texas passed its version of Title VII, Texas’ version is known as the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The TCHRA was also amended to require equal pay for equal work.
The Equal Pay Act was amended by the Lillie Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to allow women to file suit for violations occurring more than two years prior to the lawsuit. Congress passed this amendment just a couple of years ago. But, when Congress amended the Equal Pay Act to allow women to sue for older violations, Texas did not also amend the TCHRA. The Texas legislature passed an amendment, but Gov. Perry vetoed that amendment. See my post about that inexplicable veto here.
The current Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has dodged questions about whether he would veto a similar bill if he were governor. Now, we see why. The salaries for Assistant Attorney Generals are not equal. They do not reflect equal pay for equal work. See San Antonio Express News report (account required). The report gets into the "weeds" of the matter. In an Equal Pay Act case, we must be sure the two jobs, one for a man and one for a woman, are truly comparable. The report notes that among the many levels of Assistant AG;s. in three categories, women have more experience as lawyers, yet, they make less than their male counter-parts. The women were paid $647 less per year than their male counter-parts in three categories.
Among the Assistant AG’s in seven other categories, men made $647 to $3,512 more on average than women. In just one category, women made more than their male counter-parts. The AG’s office defends this pay disparity saying the salary levels are based on factors other than experience. The education level, the management requirements, could all differ. But, if that were true, the disparity should favor women on occasion, also. If the disparity were due to having attended better schools or having more managers as men, women would or should not be disadvantaged. Women lawyers attend good schools, too. Women serve (or should serve) as managers, also.
The real difference is that Assistant AG’s are hired individually. The hiring manager has a pay range to work with. This study indicates that the hiring managers are offering higher pay to male lawyers than to female lawyers. Over time, that pay disparity remains, as both genders move up in the ranks. Look at the pay for Director V. The lone female Director V receives the lowest salary. Did she attend the worst, least respected schools? Does she supervise fewer Assistants than the other male Director V’s? It is possible, but doubtful.
Jim Harrington, of the Civil Rights Law Project, says this study presents prima facie case of pay discrimination. Perhaps. But, as I have explained to many clients, statistics never provide strong evidence of discrimination. There are normally just too many variables. But, this pay disparity may just have some legs.