Many Kentucky residents do not know how much their coworkers earn or how their employers determine their salaries. When one woman in California learned that she was being paid far less than her male counterparts, she filed a gender discrimination claim against her employer. The pay discrimination case, Rizzo v. Yovino, went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and was ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

The appellate court ruled that the defendant was guilty of gender discrimination based on the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The defendant had argued that employees in Fresno County, where the plaintiff worked as a math consultant, were paid based on past earnings. However, the court ruled that past earnings could not be used as a basis for salary that excused significant gender disparities. The court found that the female plaintiff was paid far less than males doing similar work even though she had more experience and education.

If an employer wishes to defend against gender discrimination in pay, the employer must prove that pay is based on a seniority system, merit system or any other factor other than employee gender. The 9th Circuit Court said that past earnings could not be used as a defense against gender discrimination because a female employee is likely to have been paid less than male employees in her past jobs. Using past earnings to determine pay would conflict with the purpose of the EPA by keeping women’s salaries low.

Gender discrimination cases can be difficult to prove because a plaintiff needs information about other employees’ salaries to show a pattern of discrimination. An employment law attorney may be able to help a client gather evidence of gender discrimination through eyewitness testimony and subpoenaed records.