The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes western states such as California, Arizona, and Nevada, recently ruled against a woman who brought a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act. The woman was working at a school in Fresno County California and discovered that she was earning less than all others in her same position as a math consultant. All of the other people in her same position just happened to be male. She filed a lawsuit against the employer under the Equal Pay Act due to this disparity, and the trial court originally ruled in her favor by denying the employer's motion for summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit on appeal, however, reversed the denial and stated that the employer's reliance on employees' prior salaries at different jobs to determine their new base salary was a "factor other than sex" that was used to determine wages and therefore, under the Equal Pay Act, the employer's procedure to determine wages was valid.
This is a serious and significant decision by a court that in effect perpetuates the issues women face in obtaining equal wages for equal work. While the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women still earn less than men for the same work. A large reason for this is that the EPA allows employers to base wages on prior salaries, but prior salaries are all too often based on discriminatory reasons for paying women less and this traps women in an endless cycle that they cannot escape. Some states are beginning to realize the ridiculous nature of this part of the EPA and have passed laws to prevent employers from being able to rely on past salaries to determine wages. But with courts ruling like the Ninth Circuit did in this recent case, there is obviously a constant war which women must continually fight against.
View the full case opinion here: Rizo v. Yovino, No. 16-15372
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