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August 29, 2014

Texas State Agencies to Pay $175,000 to Settle EEOC and DOJ Wage Discrimination Suits

Female Program Specialists Paid Less Than Male Counterparts, Federal Lawsuits Charged

Two Texas state agencies will pay $175,000 to settle sex discrimination lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, the federal entities announced today.  The EEOC and DOJ had charged the state agencies with responsibility for gender-based pay discrimination at another, now-defunct, state agency.

The federal agencies sued the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas General Land Office for wage discrimination suffered by former female employees of the now-defunct Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA).  The EEOC, which has litigation authority against state and local governments pursuant to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), charged that TDRA paid a former program specialist lower wages than it paid to a comparable male employee in the same division, for substantially equal work, the performance of which required equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which was performed under similar working conditions.  

The parallel lawsuit filed by DOJ, which has litigation authority with respect to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for governmental employers, alleged that three female TDRA employees were subjected to wage discrimination because of their sex and terminated in retaliation for complaining about the unfairness.  Sex-based wage discrimination and retaliation violate both the EPA and Title VII.  

Given the common aspects of the claims, the two lawsuits were consolidated as EEOC and United States of America v. Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas General Land Office, Case No. A-11-CA-827 LY in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.  

Judge Lee Yeakel has signed and approved a settlement requiring the Texas departments to pay $175,000 to three female employees who were paid less than their male counterparts, representing back pay as compensation for the difference in wages.

EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said, "This case highlights the fact that there is still much work to be done in the area of equal pay, 49 years after the Equal Pay Act was enacted.  This resolution reflects the EEOC's commitment to work collaboratively with its governmental partner to enforce laws that require equal pay for men and women performing the same jobs."

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, added, "The Department of Justice shares with EEOC a strong commitment to the principle of equal pay for equal work.  This settlement demonstrates that commitment and makes clear that women cannot be paid less than men who do substantially similar work.  We look forward to our continued collaboration with the EEOC to enforce the fundamental promise of our civil rights laws."

"Equal pay for equal work is a matter of common decency and common sense," said Patrick Connor, trial attorney for the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office.  "Equal pay is about fairness for everyone, not just women.  The EEOC and the DOJ worked hand in hand to bring about the common goals of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, and to ensure a deserved result for these women based on their qualifications, skills and contributions."

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

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