Equal Pay Case: Women Can’t Have Prior Salaries Used Against Them, Court Says : The Two-Way : NPR

Employers can’t pay women less than men just because they made less at a previous job, a federal appeals court has ruled. The continuing gender pay gap is “an embarrassing reality of our economy,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its opinion.

Click here to read the full article.

Below are some highlights from the article:

  • IN the U.S., the average wage gap for women stands at 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.
  • CITING studies that show American women lose some $840 billion annually because of the wage gap, the court wrote, “If money talks, the message to women costs more than ‘just’ billions: Women are told they are not worth as much as men.”
  • THE court’s interpretation of the Equal Pay Act overturns a ruling that had stood since 1982. That precedent viewed an employee’s pay history as one of the federal law’s catchall exceptions that are “based on any other factor other than sex,” but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.
  • THE point of the Equal Pay Act, the court’s opinion said, is to eliminate long-standing pay disparities, not to preserve them.
  • THE court’s opinion was written by District Judge Stephen Reinhardt — a noted liberal who died on March 29 after having a heart attack. He was 87.
  • SEVERAL judges wrote concurring opinions to say that while they agreed with the result of the court’s ruling, they disagreed with parts of its rationale.
  • JUDGE M. Margaret McKeown, joined by Judge Mary H. Murguia, wrote, “the majority goes too far in holding that any consideration of prior pay is ‘impermissible’ under the Equal Pay Act.”
  • RIZO’S case was an easy one to decide, McKeown says. But she adds that the majority opinion “is unsupported by the statute, is unrealistic, and may work to women’s disadvantage” — citing the desire some female employees may have to bring up their own pay history to gain leverage in negotiations over pay.
  • CALLAHAN also said, “The assumption that prior salary inherently reflects gender bias is not true,” noting other potential explanations such as unequal costs of living in different parts of the country and fluctuations in the supply and demand for workers in certain positions.

MY TWO CENTS:

If a woman gets paid less than a man, then it stands to reason that her rights under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 have been violated. The act, to surmise, says that women cannot be discriminated against at work on the basis of their sex. In other words, the woman (which is the sex) cannot be discriminated against by getting paid less than men, (which is opposite sex) because she is a woman.

Critics claim that the ruling was wrong. They argue that if you take salary off the table, you are in fact, taking away the woman leverage to negotiate salary. Others rationale, that it is not gender bias that prevents a woman from getting pay more, but instead, “unequal costs of living in different parts of the country and fluctuations in the supply and demand for workers in certain positions.”

But, both arguments are flawed. Firstly, the ruling doesn’t prohibit the woman from mentioning her previous salary, but instead prevents the employer from asking and using that fact to pay her less. Secondly, both employees were educators and worked for the same institution, so supply and demands should be a non-factor. Lastly, to the point of cost of living, I fail to see the connection between how much men and women pay in rent, food, etc., to what sex they are. I was always under the impression that these sort of things are calculated or control by the market fluctuations. Maybe I am missing something, but I doubt it.

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