Last week, Texas state Sen. Sylvia Garcia was set to have a press conference at Macy’s in support of Texas’ back to school tax-free weekend. However, when Garcia learned of Macy’s letter Gov. Perry to veto the law, she canceled her appearance at the department store’s events. Garcia, along with state Rep. Sentronia Thompson joined to boycott Macy’s and several other businesses that also wrote letters to Perry insisting he reject the Lily Ledbetter Act. Ryan Hogue, District Director for Texas state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, says there are inaccuracies cited in the letter Macy’s sent to Gov. Perry.
"It specifically cites in the letter that every time they pay an employee retirement benefits that it restarts the clock ticking again for lawsuits in the state of Texas which simply isn’t true. That was taken out of the state version of the law. That was something that wasn’t even in the law and its inaccurate information."
For example, if a woman working for Macy’s were discriminated against in pay for being a woman, there’s a statute of limitations for when someone can sue for that discrimination. What Macy’s cited in the letter is that every time it issues a retirement paycheck, the process would also restart the statute of limitations for the ability to sue for that discrimination. But that was not written anywhere in the law says Hogue.
“So what Macy’s was saying was, if we, IF we discriminated, we’re not saying we did but IF we discriminated against someone back in 1960, they can now, under this law, sue us in state court in Texas for that discrimination in 2013, when it would be barred by the statute of limitations currently. But that’s not the case. There’s nothing in the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that would have allowed that; that would have extended the statute of limitations.”
Currently, only federal law offers protection for discrimination, Texas state law does not. The primary motive of the state version of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is to open up Justice of Peace and state small claims courts to fight companies who violate the law. Hogue says, companies say having a state version of the Fair Pay Act is redundant because it’s already federal law. But a drawback of not having a state version of the Fair Pay Act is that one cannot sue under federal law in state court.
“The problem with federal law is that if you’ve been discriminated against, in most of these cases, we’re talking about the proper venue being small claims court. But you can’t take someone to court for violating federal law in small claims court. So you’d have to go to the downtown federal courthouse and file a federal case.”
Hogue says what the Lily Ledbetter Act would have done is allowed people who were discriminated against currently and within the statute of limitations period to sue in small claims court. He says that’s a much more appropriate venue to try such cases.
Kroger, Brookshire’s, Gerland, and Market Basket are amongst the several other businesses that also sent the letter to Governor Perry. KUHF tried to contact Richard Cohen, the Group Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Macy’s, several times, but he was unavailable to comment.