On August 31, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court decided in Prairie View A&M University v. Chatha that the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 does not apply to a claim brought under the TCHRA. What this means is that under Texas law, unlike under federal law, the time that an employee alleging unequal pay has to file a charge of discrimination does not restart with every paycheck. Instead, an employee alleging unequal pay under Texas law must file a charge of discrimination within 180 days after learning of the alleged discriminatory pay decision. According to the Court, any paychecks received after learning of the alleged discriminatory pay decision are “merely consequences of past discrimination and do not constitute an unlawful employment practice under the TCHRA.”
Before the Ledbetter Act was passed, the time to file a charge alleging pay discrimination under Title VII did not restart with every allegedly discriminatory paycheck. Now, after the Ledbetter Act, each allegedly discriminatory paycheck that an employee receives starts the time to file an EEOC charge over again. While the Texas Supreme Court sometimes uses federal law to interpret the TCHRA, it declined to do so in Prairie View A&M University v. Chatha because the TCHRA and Title VII are not analogous with respect the statute of limitations issue.
Because the Texas Supreme Court declined to incorporate the federal law into the TCHRA, it is now up to the Texas Legislature to pass a version of the Act. Until that happens (if ever), those wishing to file a charge of discrimination under the TCHRA alleging unequal pay must act quickly and file a charge within 180 days of learning of the alleged discriminatory pay decision. This is, of course, rarely possible because employees are unlikely to learn that they are being paid less than men in the same position so quickly. The Court acknowledged this fact. It also acknowledged and claims to affirm the long-standing principle that Texas courts should look to federal law for guidance in interpreting the TCHRA. Unfortunately, the Court then failed to do so in this case, holding that this principle only holds true when state law is "analogous" to federal law.
Chief Justice Jefferson filed a dissenting opinion, joined by justice Lehrmann.