Rizo v. Yovino

The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed its decision in Rizo v. Yovino on April 9, 2018. This landmark decision overturns the Court’s previous ruling in Kouba v. Allstate Ins. Co. (1982) which includes an employee’s prior salary as one of the factors other than sex[1] upon which disparities in pay may be based.

After being hired by a County Office of Education and receiving a salary in accordance with its hiring policy, Aileen Rizo discovered that she was placed on much lower salary step than her male colleagues who were hired subsequently. The Office of Education in Rizo’s county “does not rely on experience to set an employee’s initial salary.”[2] Rather, those hired by the company receive their previous salary and additional 5%.[3] The result, Rizo argued her suit, was men being placed at higher levels than their comparable female colleagues. The district court, in reviewing the case, agreed that the Office of Education’s pay structure based on previous income is “fraught with the risk it will perpetuate a discriminatory wage disparity between men and women.”[4]

In accordance with the Equal Pay Act of 1963, an employee alleging gender based discriminatory pay practices needs only to “[demonstrate] a wage disparity” and “she is not required to prove discriminatory intent.”[5] The Office of Education does not dispute a difference in pay correlated with employees’ gender. Instead, it insists the disparity results from one of the factors other than sex allowed for in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. “It acknowledges that if it is wrong, it has no defense to Rizo’s Equal Pay Act claim.

On this basis, then, is the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling made. In its ruling and written opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court not only upholds the ruling of the district court, but gives definition to the ambiguous phrase “any other factor other than sex.”[6] Justice Reinhart writes that these factors are “limited to legitimate, job-related factors such as a prospective employee’s experience, educational background, ability, or prior job performance.”[7]

[1]Equal Pay Act, Vol. 88-38. Washington D.C.: United States Congress.

[2]Rizo v. Yovino, 854 F. 3d 1161 (2018), 2.

[3]Ibid., 8.

[4]Id.At 9212 (statement of Rep. Donohue).

[5]Rizo v. Yovino, 854 F. 3d 1161 (2018), 11.

[6]Equal Pay Act, Vol. 88-38. Washington D.C.: United States Congress.

[7]Rizo v. Yovino, 854 F. 3d 1161 (2018), 2.

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