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Texas governor vetoes bill intended to prevent pay discrimination

Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] on Friday vetoed [press release] a bill [HB 950 text] intended to prevent payment discrimination and make it easier for women to obtain equal pay. The bill was passed by the Texas House on April 25 in a 79-50 vote, and by the Senate [official websites] on May 22 with a vote of 16-15. In a press release, Perry explained that he vetoed the proposed bill because it "duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [official website]." Had the bill passed, it would have put Texas state laws in line with the federal Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act [S.181 materials]. Forty-two states have passed similar equal pay bills.

In January 2009 US President Barack Obama signed into law [JURIST report] the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, extending the deadline for employees to sue their employers for unequal pay discrimination under a disparate treatment theory. The law's "clarification" of equal pay protections effectively overturned the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which held that "a pay-setting decision is a discrete act that occurs at a particular point in time" and that the statutory period for filing a discrimination claim with the EEOC begins when that discrete act occurs. The new law altered Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text] to clarify that the six-month statute of limitations controlling racial, gender, or national origin employment discrimination suits is applicable to each instance of a discriminatory practice, including the receipt of each paycheck, not only to the initial discriminatory act. The initial lawsuit was brought by Lilly Ledbetter, a Goodyear employee for 19 years, who alleged that she received less pay than male counterparts because of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court upheld the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's reversal [opinion, PDF] of a district court decision awarding Ledbetter $360,000 in damages.

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