By Claire B. Carter, Esq., Associate

On April 9, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case of Rizo v. Yovino, 2018 WL 1702982 (9th Cir. 2018), ruling that a female employee’s prior salary cannot be used to justify paying her less than a male employee. The female employee, Aileen Rizo, a math consultant hired by the Fresno County Office of Education, received a salary based on a County policy that took the hired individual’s prior salary and added 5%. When Ms. Rizo discovered that she was being paid less than her male colleagues, she sued the Superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education for violating the Equal Pay Act and other federal and state laws. The lower court ruled against Ms. Rizo, finding that her salary was based on receiving a lower salary at her previous job, not on the fact that she was a woman. The Appeals Court reversed the decision, finding it a form of gender discrimination to base a female employee’s salary on her prior salary history, and therefore, a violation of the Equal Pay Act. The Superintendent now has the option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In setting employee salaries and policies regarding same, employers should be mindful about compliance with the Equal Pay Act and any similar state laws.


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