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How previous salary questions affects women's pay

California is one of several states where employers are no longer allowed to ask potential employees what they made at their last job. There is evidence that doing so could perpetuate wage inequity over the long term. Women are often paid less than men even just out of college, so they might be unable to shake the low salary as they move from job to job.

Although it is not legal to pay women less than men for doing the same job, a court ruled against one teacher in California who filed a lawsuit after learning that a male colleague with less experience was making more money than she was. The school district argued that it simply based her pay on what she had made at her last job. The court found that using the previous salary could be a reasonable way of determining pay, but this was prior to the California law being enacted. In 2000, Boeing faced a class action lawsuit from women employees arguing that determining salary based on their last job was hindering their progress in the company. As part of a settlement, Boeing revamped how it determined salaries.

In the teacher's case, the 9th Circuit reversed its decision in April. The judge wrote that discrimination against women was perpetuated by using the previous salary as a benchmark for determining pay.

Employees who are facing issues related to wages, a denial of benefits or similar work issues might want to consult an attorney. A consultation like this can be helpful even if a person intends to try to solve the problem through workplace channels since the lawyer can explain the person's rights and suggest strategies. If the employer is not receptive, the employee and attorney might then discuss the next steps. This could involve filing a claim with a state or federal agency or filing a lawsuit against the company.

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