Prior Salary Not Justification for Paying Woman Less Than Man Doing Similar Work, 9th Cir. Holds

You can’t pay a woman less for doing the same job as a man because of her prior salary history, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held yesterday, in a victory for equal pay-for-equal work.

In this case a female math consultant sued her employer, the Fresno County Office of Education, after learning that her male coworkers made significantly more than her despite having less experience.

The board of education admitted that her salary was lower and argued that it was because of her prior salary and not her gender. She earned less in the past, so it’s OK to pay her less than a man now, the argument went.

The Ninth Circuit wasn’t buying it.

“The question before us is simple: can an employer justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary? Based on the text history, and purpose of the Equal Pay Act, the answer is clear: No.”

“We now hold that prior salary, alone or in combination with other factors cannot justify a wage differential.

Here’s the full text of the ruling.

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