Justice Department: Texas State Agencies Paid Women Less Than Male Equals

07/17/2012 11:15 am ET

Female workers at two state agencies were allegedly being paid thousands of dollars less to do the same work as their male counterparts.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against two Texas agencies last week, alleging that a group of women employed by the state in 2010 were making thousands of dollars a year less than the men who worked in their department -- even though the men and the women "all performed work requiring substantially the same responsibility," according to the lawsuit.

The women -- Monica Bosquez Mota, Tina Lewis and Dalinda Newby -- all worked for the Texas Department of Rural Affairs in 2009, before that agency was dissolved and its legal obligations were passed along to the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas General Land Office, the two agencies named as defendants in the suit.

Bosquez Mota filed a discrimination charge against the TDRA in 2009, then the department allegedly gave pay bumps to Bosquez Mota, Lewis, Newby and a fourth woman who shared their title the following year, according to the Justice Department lawsuit. Before their pay raises, none of the women were making more than $72,522 a year, the suit alleges, while the lowest-paid male member of their team with the same title made $79,631 a year.

Following the pay raises, the suit claims, the women were making salaries that were "closer, but not equal to, the salaries of similarly situated men performing substantially the same work."

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples told the Houston Chronicle that the Department of Justice was taking "an unnecessary shot at Texas" with the suit "for obvious political purposes." Staples called the DoJ's press release on the matter "grossly misleading."

While the Texas case has yet to be resolved, it's not the first time employers have been accused of paying women less than men to do the same job. Women nationwide earn just 77 cents for every dollar men earn, and the gap seems to persist no matter what occupation you're looking at, according to research by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

In Texas, the disparity is actually a bit smaller than the national average -- Texas women reportedly earn 80 cents for every dollar that Texas men make -- but there's still a large gap in male and female earning power.

Legislation came before the Senate last month that, if it passed, would have helped shrink the pay disparity between men and women. The bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, would have required employers to demonstrate that any pay differences between men and women in their workplace arise from work-related reasons like education and experience.

But Senate Republicans closed ranks against the bill, and blocked it from passing.

Suggest a correction