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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-20-11

EEOC Sues Texas Department of Rural Affairs for Violations of the Equal Pay Act

State Agency Failed to Pay Women the Same as Men for Equal Work, Federal Agency Charged

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) engaged in unlawful sex discrimination when it paid a female program specialist less than her male colleagues for doing essentially the same work, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The TDRA is the state agency which focuses on rural issues and monitors governmental actions affecting rural Texas.

It its lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-827, the EEOC said the employee was paid approximately $25,000 less than her male counterparts in the TDRA’s former Disaster Recovery Division. According to the EEOC, the TDRA created a new, temporary division in 2008, the Disaster Recovery Division, to disburse $3.1 billion of federal money in Texas after Hurricanes Dolly and Ike. The female claimant learned that males hired as program specialists were paid much more than the female program specialists. On Feb. 28, 2011, the Disaster Recovery Division was eliminated. As a result of the elimination, the claimant and all the female program specialists in the DRD were terminated from employment with the TDRA but several male program specialists were kept. The former executive director was involved in setting different salaries.

Sex discrimination in pay violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). The EEOC suit seeks lost pay and other relief for the former employee as well as an injunction against further violations of the EPA. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Enforcing laws that require equal pay for men and women performing the same jobs is a priority for the EEOC,” said Patrick M. Connor, trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office (SAFO). “The effective enforcement of these laws ensures that the contributions of women in the workplace are not undervalued. Unfortunately, a case like this highlights the fact that there is still much work to be done in the area of equal pay, 48 years after the EPA was enacted.”

Supervisory Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor added, “The protections of the EPA are particularly important for women because they are not often valued the same as men in the workplace, as evidenced by the 20 percent increase of sex-based wage discrimination charges the EEOC received over the last four years.”

Taylor said that in fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received 1,044 EPA charges, up from 861 in fiscal year 2006.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.