Equal Pay case says experience counts

by on December 12, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Equal Pay case says experience can be taken into account

Court upholds use of previous wage levels in setting new hires salaries

There’s one argument about equal pay that you won’t have to worry about, thanks to a federal appeals court.

An employee in Illinois filed a lawsuit that challenged the practice of basing new hires’ pay on what they earned in their previous job.

Her argument was simple but radical: All market-based wages discriminate against women, so using previous wage levels to set salary also discriminates, and violates the Equal Pay Act.

Blanket discrimination?

Luckily for HR professionals, the court called her bluff. Yes, the court agreed, reliable research does show that women earn less than men, on average. But this fact doesn’t imply that every private employer discriminates against women in setting every wage. It could just as easily mean that women, on average, have fewer years of work experience – because of child-rearing and related factors – and their wages reflect this, the court said.

Equal pay

So you’re not violating the Equal Pay Act if you take experience, as embodied in previous wage levels, into account when setting new employee salaries.

Reminder: You are required to pay men and women equally if their jobs:require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are done under similar working conditions.

Cite: Wernsing v. Illinois Dept. of Human Services, No. 04-2225, 7th Cir., 10/21/05

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