The 1963 Equal Pay Act mandates that employers must provide equal pay for equal work. The express purpose was to eliminate the practice of paying women less simply because of their gender. The law does allow employers to offer an affirmative defense to the law if they can show that some factor other than one’s gender played a role in lower pay. The question recently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Rizo v. Yovino was whether a California math teacher/consultant’s past salary qualified as a “factor other than sex” that allowed the school district to legally pay her less than her male counterparts. On remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, the appellate court ruled that it is not.
In other words, the school district can’t use one’s prior salary as an excuse to pay them less. The court ruled that to allow employers to pay workers less solely based on the pay of a previous employer would essentially defeat the purpose of the federal Equal Pay law and perpetuate gender inequities in pay. As our Los Angeles equal pay lawyers can explain, fact that women have been paid less ion the past isn’t justification to continue paying them less.
Several other federal appellate courts have held that if defendants in an equal pay case present a “factor other than sex” defense, that factor has to be job-related. Only one court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has held that the defense can involve any number of essentially limitless other factors, so long as none of them involves the employee’s gender. Continue reading