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Federal court holds salary history no excuse for discrimination

A court decision recently may help women in California and the other West Coast states get equal pay for doing the same work as their male counterparts. In that opinion, a federal appeals court held that employers cannot use a woman's salary history as a justification for offering her a lower wage.

To give a bit of background, it is unlawful workplace discrimination for an employer to offer women lower salaries then men for doing the same job. However, this does not mean that employers have to treat everyone alike.

As long as the employer has some legal, non-discriminatory reason to offer a lower salary to a female job candidate, such as experience or qualifications, then the employer may do so without having to worry about running afoul of the law. What this recent court case does is remove an employee's salary history from the list of legitimate reasons that an employer use to offer a woman a lower wage.

The court's reasoning was that allowing employers to do so simply perpetuates gender inequality, as a woman who started her career with a lower salary than her male counterparts is thereby doomed to always have a lower salary. And, there is a legal measure pending in the California Legislature that would make it unlawful for employers to consider salary history when making a job offer.

While some worry that this court case will have a negative impact on and even be burdensome to businesses, the decision does show promise that women in California's workplaces will have a better chance at receiving equal pay for equal work. Women who feel their employers have ignored this principle in their hiring or promotion practices may have legal options available to them.

Source: NPR, "Women can't have prior salaries used against them, court says in equal pay case," Bill Chappell, April 10, 2018

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