"Remember Lilly Ledbetter? She was a supervisor at a plant who alleged she did the same work as her male counterparts but was paid less. The thing is, she didn't know about the pay disparity at the time. When she learned of the shortfall, she filed a charge of discrimination at the EEOC. The U.S. Supreme Court found on May 29, 2007, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Inc. that she had not filed her charge within the statute of limitations (300 days) and rejected the idea that each paycheck she received triggered the clock anew. Congress did not like this result and enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Now an employee's time to file an EEOC charge begins anew with each paycheck that is a manifestation of the allegedly discriminatory act of setting unequal pay. Here’s what’s interesting. On April 1, Houston's 1st Court of Appeals revived a discrimination claim and held in Prairie View A&M University v. Chatha that a federal law (the Ledbetter Act) applies to cases arising under the Texas Labor Code. But, argued the employer, the Texas Legislature considered and rejected amending the code to follow Ledbetter. No mind, said the 1st Court, "The State's public policy in the Texas Act [the Labor Code] is to execute the policy in Title VII." Sorry, I’m not buying that. Whenever a court starts relying on "public policy," you know it reached a results-oriented decision, not a reasoned one. I hope this goes to the Texas Supreme Court."
Well, the Texas Supreme Court sorted it all out. On Aug. 31 in Prairie View A&M University v. Chatha, the justices decided in no uncertain terms that the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act does not automatically incorporate federal law, and if the Texas Legislature wanted to pass its own version of the Ledbetter Act, then it was free to do so.
Until then, the court held that the 180-day clock started to run when the plaintiff learned of the alleged discriminatory pay decision. Because she did not file her charge of discrimination within 180 days after doing so, her claim was tossed.
What about the subsequent paychecks she received? Did not those trigger the 180 days yet again? In a word, no. Here is the court: “Subsequent paychecks containing an alleged discriminatory pay amount are merely consequences of past discrimination and do not constitute an unlawful employment practice under the TCHRA.”
And the court added that complying with the 180-day deadline is a mandatory condition precedent to suit against a governmental agency under Texas Government Code §311.034. The vote at the high court was 7-2. Case closed.