The discussion surrounding the gender wage gap has gained traction in the past year. Women around the country are speaking out about unequal pay. Many employers have increased their efforts to close the gap. Others continue to pay women less than men for performing the same work.
Texas workers are likely covered under the Equal Pay Act (EPA). It was designed to make sure that individuals were being paid based on their performance and role with a company as opposed to their gender. The EPA in the United States was passed in the 1960s at about the same time as other important legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The standard of review utilized by a district court in a denial of benefits case can be outcome determinative. Either the court will examine the administrative record and make its own determination as to a participant's eligibility for benefits (the de novo standard) or simply assure itself that the plan administrator's decision to deny benefits "falls somewhere on a continuum of reasonableness" (the abuse of discretion standard). Corry v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, 499 F.3d 389, 398 (5th Cir. 2007). Needless to say, a plan administrator's decision to deny benefits is given great deference, and routinely upheld, under the abuse of discretion standard.
Recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled its longstanding precedent to reject the notion that plan administrators are inherently entitled to discretion. Ariana M. v. Human Health Plan of Tex., 884 F.3d 246, 255 (5th Cir. 2018). As a result, courts must now apply the de novo standard of review unless the benefit plan itself expressly delegates discretion to the plan administrator.
For Latina workers in the Houston area, a significant gender pay gap continues to hold women back from their full potential earnings. There are over 11 million Latina workers across the country, but statistics show that they face the highest pay disparity of all female workers. On average, a Latina worker receives 53 cents for every dollar made by a white male worker. The gap holds up for women in full-time employment, who earn around 80 cents for every dollar paid to men also working full time. There are a number of factors that contribute to pay inequality, including over-representation of Latinas in service work jobs with limited access to benefits.
Everybody wants to be paid fairly for doing a fair day’s work. We are learning, however, that the unfortunate truth is that equitable wages are far out of reach in many positions. Often times these less-than-fair discrepancies in pay run along gender lines.