Women in California, like the rest of the U.S., have historically earned less than men. This is despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act became a law decades ago, which requires employers to pay men and women the same if they do similar jobs. This practice is a form of sex discrimination. Employers who engage in this practice may be required to compensate the employees who are the victims of it.

However, employers may be able to use what may appear to be legitimate reasons to pay women less, but it really is just masking a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Recently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tried to eliminate one of the practices that employers may use to pay women less than men. They ruled that employers cannot use a woman’s past salary when determining a woman’s new salary. The Court stated that allowing employers to do this perpetuates the practice of paying women less and needs to stop.

The Court ruled that employers must only use legitimate business reasons in making salary determinations. These should include past experience and job performance, education, skills and other aspects of their ability to do the job not what they were previously paid. This decision was just recently issued, so moving forward employers cannot ask women about their past salary in making determinations for salary offers. Those that do may be required to compensate victims by paying them retroactively what they should have initially paid them and other costs.

Despite the laws that are place the wage gap in California persists. A federal court of appeals is trying to change that though by making a common practice, which effectively ensures women will continue to be paid less, illegal. It is not completely clear how this decision will affect day to day employment practices, but experienced attorneys will stay on top of developments and may be a useful resource.

Source: www.npr.org, “Women can’t have prior salaries used against them, court says in equal pay case” Bill Chappell, April 10, 2018