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Pay gaps and workplace discrimination

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2020 | Workplace Discrimination

Many employees face workplace discrimination in Indiana every year. A controversial topic in this area of law is whether or not basing an employee’s past salary on prior earnings is a gender-neutral policy.

In Aileen Rizzo v. Jim Yovino, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that past earnings do not justify pay differences from the 9th circuit. The decision is based on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA).

The purpose of the EPA was to eradicate pay differences between men and women for the same type of work. In the Rizzo case, Ms. Rizzo learned that a male math consultant was earning substantially more she did during a lunch with co-workers. She had been in her position for three years, but her colleagues who were male with less experience and education were all being paid substantially more.

To establish a case of workplace discrimination, a plaintiff must show that she was paid substantially less than male employees for similar work performed and under similar working conditions.

After a plaintiff has established their case, the burden shifts to the employer to justify their conduct. In Rizzo, the defense argued that the pay gap was based on past wages–a factor other than sex. The Court determined that relying on pay history violates the EPA because women have historically earned less than men.

An attorney may be able to help clients who have faced workplace discrimination successfully present their case. For example, if a female employee learns that she is making substantially less than a male colleague, a discrimination law attorney could investigate the relevant facts, such as the nature of the work, whether or not working conditions were similar for both employees and whether or not there was a pay gap between wages paid to men versus women.


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