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Ledbetter timing applies to Texas cases, too

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s a big new worry for Texas employers: Employees who want to sue over long-ago discriminatory pay decisions can do so within 180 days of the last discriminatory paycheck, at least according to one state appeals court.

The 1st Court of Appeals has ruled that the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act applies to discrimination cases under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) as well as federal Title VII claims.

Recent case: Diljit Chatha, a woman of Indian national origin, teaches English at Prairie View A&M University. She began working at the university in 1987 and was promoted to full professor in 2004. More than two years after the promotion, she filed a claim with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission, alleging that less qualified non-Indian faculty members were paid more.

The university asked to have Chatha’s case dismissed because she hadn’t filed her discriminatory pay claim within 180 days of the promotion.

But the Court of Appeals of Texas disagreed. It said the TCHRA states that a complaint “must be filed no later than the 180th day after the alleged discriminatory practice occurs.” But, the law doesn’t define which “allegedly discriminatory practice” starts the clock.

Because of that lack of specificity, the court looked to Title VII and the Ledbetter Act. Since the Ledbetter Act says an unlawful employment practice occurs when “an individual is affected by an application of a discriminatory compensation decision or practice, including each paycheck resulting from that decision.”

For Chatha—and now other Texas employees—that was her most recent paycheck. (Prairie View A&M University v. Chatha, No. 01-09-00840, Court of Appeals of Texas, 1st District, 2010)

Final note: This case is another reason to retain all documents related to promotion decisions.

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