Attorney General Abbott’s Got a Problem with Enforcing Equal Pay for Equal Work

A few days ago we reported that Attorney General Greg Abbott, as he campaigns for governor, has been dodging media questions about his views on a Texas Equal Pay Act, which would make enforcement of equal pay for equal work more effective when women encounter pay discrimination.

Texas AFT supported that bill last year (HB 950), and it passed in the legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry on specious grounds. Abbott’s 2014 gubernatorial opponent, Sen. Wendy Davis, was the author of the bill in the Texas Senate and has vowed to keep working for its enactment if elected governor in November.

Abbott still isn’t saying whether he would support or oppose the Texas Equal Pay Act. But deeds speak louder than words, and it turns out that Abbott has been using his power as attorney general to fight against more effective enforcement of existing state laws against pay discrimination—ironically helping to demonstrate exactly why a new Equal Pay Act is so essential.

To be specific, back in 2012 Abbott had his staff in the AG’s office fight against enforcement of equal pay in a court case defending Prairie View A&M University against a lawsuit by a professor who was the victim of pay discrimination. Abbott’s team insisted that if an employee does not find out about a discriminatory pay decision within 180 days, he or she has no recourse in state court. In other words, you may in theory have a state right to equal pay, but under current state law that right can be rendered meaningless in practice because you don’t have any available remedy.

It seems that on this issue of pay discrimination against women, just as on the issue of inequity in state funding for public schools, Attorney General Abbott is in the habit of defending the indefensible. No wonder he doesn’t want to talk about the Equal Pay Act when questioned by reporters! But now we know the truth behind his reticence.

Sen. Davis commented: “We can add equal pay to the list of Texas values that Greg Abbott flatly rejects. He fought against Texas equal pay laws in court. And this is just another example of the kind of governor he would be—one who is hurting Texas families.” The principle at stake in this case is straightforward, she said: “A full day’s work deserves a full day’s pay, no matter your gender.”