Despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act was enacted almost 50 years ago, this country still has a ways to go when it comes to ensuring equal pay for equal work. This is made obvious by the fact that Texas state agencies settled a federal wage discrimination lawsuit this week.
The Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas General Land Office have agreed to settle the wage discrimination claims by paying a total of $175,000 to three female employees, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The lawsuit had been filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the women who were employees of a now-defunct Texas state agency, the Texas Department of Rural Affairs. The women had accused the department of paying them less than male employees, who were essentially performing the same work. The women were also subject to retaliation, as they were fired after they complained about the unequal wages.
The Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1963 to prohibit the discrimination against women in the payment of wages. At the time the act was passed, the average female worker earned only 60 percent of what her male counterparts earned. Today, it has been reported that women make about 72 cents on the dollar to what men earn for performing the same jobs.
The fact that a government agency has been found to have engaged in this type of wage theft demonstrates how widespread this form of employment discrimination remains.
Many media pundits, politicians and analysts have attempted to determine why this wage gap exists so long after the Equal Pay Act was enacted. While a variety of complicated contributing factors exist, the fact is that by law people must be paid equally for equal work. Employers who fail to follow wage and hour laws may find themselves in trouble when employees seek legal recourse.
Source: San Antonio Express-News, “State agencies penalized for wage discrimination,” William Pack, Nov. 20, 2012
- Our San Antonio law firm practices workplace discrimination law as well as wage and hour law. There is more information about the cases that we handle on our employment law website and more information about wage rights on our Wage and Hour Issues page.