News broke this morning that grocery chain Kroger was one of five businesses that made time in its busy day to send Gov. Rick Perry a letter encouraging him to veto HB 950, the Texas bill sponsored by Representative Senfronia Thompson (who was not pleased when it was vetoed) that would have brought Texas law in line with federal law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and allowed suits under the law to be filed in either federal or state court.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a federal law, doesn’t mandate that women should receive equal pay for equal work, and it doesn’t make it illegal to discriminate (another law takes care of that). It is a more technical law that deals with the amount of time someone has to file a lawsuit if they discover that they are facing pay discrimination.
The law used to be that you had a relatively short period of time from the first time you were paid unequally. So, you are hired for a job on January 1st, and get your first paycheck on the 5th (I know, bear with me), and it turns out you are being paid less than a man doing the exact same job. Before this act, you were presumed to know that and to have only 180 days to file a lawsuit to remedy it. If you didn’t discovery the discrimination until the following January (or even the following October, or whenever 180 days is from January 5th), you were out of luck.
Realistically, of course, we all know that no one walks around on day 5 of a new job comparing paychecks. People are socialized not to talk about salary, and some companies (and I’ve always wondered if this is legal) explicitly tell you not to talk about salary.
The outcome, of course, was that if you didn’t learn early in the game that you were being discriminated against, you were out of luck, and your employer got away with it.
The Lilly Ledbetter Act changes the game, and says the statute of limitations starts afresh with each discriminatory paycheck. So, as long as you’re getting a discriminatory paycheck, you have a cause of action.
In other words, as long as the employer is violating your rights, you have a chance to remedy the situation in court.
Seems fair, doesn’t it? I mean, nowhere in life do we say that if you break the rules long enough without anyone noticing that you get a free pass, so why would we do it with discriminatory pay?
Note that this law isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to prove discriminatory pay. It merely extends your time frame for filing a lawsuit.
The allowance to file in either state or federal court is important, too. State courts are less expensive and easier to access–consider that every county has a courthouse, but few have federal ones (just 29 places for federal courts to meet in Texas).
But, Kroger wants to have impunity to game the system a little more easily. They’re already subject to federal law, but they wanted to make sure that it wasn’t easier to file in Texas.
Opposing this law makes business sense, in a very literal and small-minded way if your sole focus as far as being a business is generating profit regardless of anything else. Very small-minded.
Clearly, one reason organizations like the Texas Retailers Association exist is to advocate for or against laws like this so that individual members don’t have to take the time to, or subject themselves to the exposure of, doing it themselves. I’m sure most, if not all, grocery stores in Texas, as well as all kinds of other retail establishments we patronize, are members. And, I know they all benefit from the veto.
Still, Kroger stepped out in front, with only four other businesses, to make extra sure this happened. Thanks, Kroger. Let us know how that works out for you.