Supporters of equal pay for women in Texas gathered on a day’s notice early this morning to testify before the state legislature’s economic development committee, asking legislators to bring Texas law up to the same standards required under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Sponsoring Sen. Wendy Davis said her bill would allow Texans to file pay discrimination complaints in state court—a more affordable option than doing so in federal court—and, most importantly, allow them to do so within 180 days of their discovery of any alleged unequal compensation, rather than 180 days from the initial occurrence of the compensation.
One U.S. Navy veteran, Tiffany Bishop, testified in front of the committee that she was shocked to find, once she entered pay discrimination in the private sector, that state law offered her little recourse.
“When I was in the military, I worked on the flight deck on aircraft carriers, and my abilities were never questioned,” she said. “My pay was based on my rank. My promotions were based on my job performance.”
Bishop worked in a Texas call center after serving in Iraq, and said she “assumed the civilian world would be the same” as she’d experienced in the Navy, but that wasn’t so. When she and a male coworker compared pay, and found Bishop’s to be less per hour, they were both disciplined—Bishop for making a complaint, and her coworker for sharing his pay information in the first place. But there was nothing she could do under Texas law to address the discrimination.
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“If the military gets it, and the federal government gets it,” she said, “It’s about time the State of Texas gets it as well.”
University of Texas graduate student Sarah Melecki testified that, upon her graduation in 2014, she’d have “a lot of places” she could seek employment, and that knowing she could fight for fair pay in Texas would be a major factor in deciding to continue working in the state.
“If this isn’t something that Texas finds important, then I can look elsewhere for a job,” she said, telling Rewire that she heard about the hearing only last night, but wanted to show her support before heading off to her day of both school and work.
Sen. Davis’ bill is currently pending a vote by the economic development committee.