Perhaps it’s not surprising that women and minorities employed by the state of Texas make less money than white men who work similar jobs. But does the fact it’s gotten worse over the last decade give you pause?
David McSwane, enterprise reporter for the Dallas Morning News, compared thousands of state workers’ pay and found the gap between pay for white men and everyone else is growing.
McSwane says while the state keeps the data, they’ve never analyzed across it to identify pay gaps. “Across the board, you’re seeing women and, particularly, women of color losing a couple cents on the dollar compared to white men,” he says, “(even) from where they were ten years ago to today.”
Over the past decade, McSwane says pay for government work at the state level has been stagnant. “With that, there’s been an increasing reliance on black and Hispanic women in those jobs,” he says. “At the same time, they’re earning less as white men are earning more.”
At the top levels of government employment, McSwane says men are twice as likely to have six-figure jobs as women. The state employees’ union wasn’t surprised by the findings, he says.
“They work very closely with what they call frontline employees,” he says. “Employees with Health and Human services, your caseworkers. They’ve been feeling those lower, stagnant salaries over the years.”
The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed in 2009, extended the timeframe for an employee to file a lawsuit that they’ve been discriminated against based on race or gender. In 2013 Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation that addressed similar concerns, saying it was redundant.
“It gave them a little bit wider of a window to file those claims,” he says. “(But) very few people are in a position to do that.”
McSwane says reaction among state agencies and public officials has been mixed. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar told McSwane “there’s nuance” in differing pay among his employees because of their varied levels of experience, but Hegar has said he wants to look at the issue.
“The governor’s office basically dismissed our findings, saying ‘This isn’t an issue at all,'” he says. “(Wendy Davis)’s highly skeptical that this more conservative senate, under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would show any interest at all in the issue.”