Rizo v. Yovino, No. 16-15372 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The question before the Ninth Circuit was "simple:" could an employer justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary? Based on the text, history, and purpose of the Equal Pay Act, the Court determined the answer was clearly "no." Prior to the Court's decision here, the law was unclear whether an employer could consider prior salary, either alone or in combination with other factors, when setting its employees’ salaries. The Ninth Circuit took this case en banc in order to clarify the law, and held prior salary alone or in combination with other factors could not justify a wage differential. "To hold otherwise - to allow employers to capitalize on the persistence of the wage gap and perpetuate that gap ad infinitum - would be contrary to the text and history of the Equal Pay Act, and would vitiate the very purpose for which the Act stands." The Fresno County Office of Education (“the County”) did not dispute that it paid Aileen Rizo (“Rizo”) less than comparable male employees for the same work. However, it argued this wage differential was lawful under the Equal Pay Act. The County contended that the wage differential was based on a fourth, "catchall exception: a 'factor other than sex.'” The Ninth Circuit surmised this would allow the County to defend a sex-based salary differential on the basis of the very sex-based salary differentials the Equal Pay Act was designed to cure. Because the Court concluded that prior salary did not constitute a “factor other than sex,” the County failed as a matter of law to set forth an affirmative defense. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment to the County and remanded for further proceedings.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on April 27, 2017.