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Appellate Court Strikes Down Gender-Based Pay Inequality


On April 9th, a U.S. appeals court ruled that employers cannot rely on workers’ salary histories in order to justify gender-based pay disparities. The Court based its decision on the federal Equal Pay Act, passed in 1963, deciding that Congress did not intend for discriminatory pay policies from the past to justify continuing pay differentials.

The ruling is monumental in helping to address the injustice of certain groups being paid less due to past salary inequities. The County responsible for the pay inequities has responded that it will seek to challenge the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act prohibits sex discrimination, stating that no employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages at a rate less than the rate of which they pay employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs which require equal effort, responsibility, and skill, and which are performed under similar working conditions, with the following exceptions (for payments made pursuant to):

  • A differential based on any other factor other than sex;
  • A system which measures earnings by quality or quantity of earnings (for example, a commission);
  • A merit system; and/or
  • A seniority system.

The Case

This case was brought by a teacher in Fresno County, California who discovered that she was being paid significantly less than her male coworkers, with the County justifying the inequity due to her specific prior salary history, which they claimed fell under a “factor other than sex,” (which, as noted above, is allowed under the law).

The Appellate Court disagreed, and its ruling implies that salary history cannot be used under any circumstances to justify these types of pay gaps; in other words, prior salary/history does not qualify as a valid “factor” that employers can rely on under the law. The only factors that can be relied on are “legitimate, job-related factors,” such as education, experience, prior performance, training, etc. The Court called a reliance on prior salary a “second-rate surrogate” that, instead, simply masked continuing pay inequities.

A Widespread Issue

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident here in America: According to the U.S. Labor Department data, women made 82 cents for every dollar men earned in 2016. While this gap has narrowed since the 1970s due to women’s progress in education and in the workforce, many employers still try to justify the gap by relying on previous wages; wages that most likely come from a time when the gap was even wider.

Orlando, Florida Appeals & Civil Rights Attorneys

Under state and U.S. federal laws, you are afforded certain protected rights. If these have been violated and/or you are seeking guidance from an attorney regarding civil appeals in Florida, contact the lawyers at the Baez Law Firm today to obtain assistance.




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