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Texas deadlines tighter than Ledbetter Act’s

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law

When Lilly Ledbetter lost her equal pay claim in the U.S. Supreme Court because she hadn’t filed an EEOC complaint until years after an allegedly biased pay decision, worker advocacy groups were outraged.

Congress responded by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which lets employees use their last paycheck as the date from which their EEOC filing deadline is calculated. That date can be years after an allegedly discriminatory pay decision.

Now a Texas appeals court has ruled that the Ledbetter Act doesn’t change the deadline for filing a claim under the Texas Labor Code. Employees still have to use the pay decision date as the start of the filing deadline.

Recent case: Tamara Villanueva worked for the Tarrant Regional Water District as a buyer. The district then hired a male replacement, and later rehired Villanueva as a contract administrator. However, she actually performed her old job and helped train her replacement, who earned about $10,000 more than she did.

Villanueva asked for a raise, alleging sex discrimination. She got a 4% raise, but still earned less than the man. She continued to complain—and was removed from a major project and assigned to clerical tasks. She was eventually fired after being transferred to a manual labor position, where she couldn’t perform physical tasks because of medical issues.

Within 180 days of receiving her last paycheck, Villanueva filed a complaint with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Court of Appeals of Texas said that was too late under the Texas Labor Code because Villanueva first suspected pay discrimination almost a year earlier. The court said Texas isn’t required to abide by the Ledbetter Act’s looser deadlines. (Tarrant Regional Water District v. Villanueva, No. 02-10-00052, Court of Appeals of Texas, 2010)

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