9th Circuit to reconsider ruling permitting women to be paid less than men in some circumstances
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will revisit a panel’s ruling that men may be paid more than women based on salary histories, Law.com reported Thursday.
In April, a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based court ruled (PDF) that the Equal Pay Act does not forbid employers from paying a woman less than a man for the same work if the man had made more money in a prior job and the employer had used that as a factor in setting salaries.
But the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission appealed that ruling, saying it created a split from other federal appeals courts and would perpetuate the gender pay gap. (The American Association of University Women says women make, on average, 80 percent of what men make for the same work.) The 9th Circuit granted that request and has scheduled oral arguments for early December.
The case was brought by Aileen Rizo, a math consultant for a school district in Fresno County, California. Rizo came to the district from a teaching position in Arizona, where she had earned nearly $10,000 less than the $62,733 Fresno County agreed to pay her.
But then she spoke to her colleagues, who said a newly hired man in the same job was being paid $79,000 a year. She later learned that all of her male colleagues earned more than she did. Rizo complained to human resources, but the county took no action. In court, it argued that Rizo’s salary would have been the same for a man who came from the same job, because it was determined by a policy that adds 5 percent to the candidate’s prior salary to determine starting pay.
Under the Equal Pay Act, employers may pay employees unequally if the unequal treatment is based on a factor other than sex, including seniority. The panel’s ruling had cited a 1982 ruling, also from the 9th Circuit, saying prior salary can be a factor other than sex if the employer can show that its policy “effectuate[s] some business policy” and was implemented reasonably in light of its stated purpose.
The panel had remanded the case to trial court, so it could investigate the business purpose for Fresno County’s salary policies.