American employers know or should know that it is illegal to discriminate against any worker based on their sex, race, color, religion, ethnic origin, age, disability or genetic information. This standard applies to state and federal government agencies as well as businesses in the private sector. But apparently, not all employers, even those in government, strive to follow these rules.
The U.S. Justice Department recently sued the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas General Land Office, two agencies that absorbed what was once the Texas Department of Rural Affairs. The Justice Department alleges that a state and federal investigation of the agencies uncovered possible instances of sex discrimination against female workers.
The lawsuit states that three female employees of the former Texas Department of Rural Affairs received substantially less pay compared to their male coworkers who were performing essentially the same tasks. Evidently, the women’s employers fired them in retaliation after learning about their claims of sex discrimination, which is also an unlawful practice.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that no employer may discriminate against a worker in any condition of employment, including the payment of wages. Male and female employees must be paid equally for doing the same work.
Further, Texas has its own law concerning wage discrimination. Under the Texas Fair Labor Standards Act, men and women who perform the same work must be compensated equally, so long as they have the same skills, experience, and responsibilities.
It is not clear how this specific case will turn out. If the Justice Department prevails in the lawsuit the female workers will most likely receive damages. A lawsuit like this will hopefully show other businesses and government agencies that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.
Source: Statesman.com, “Federal lawsuit alleges sex discrimination,” July 11, 2012