gender pay gap

Closing the Gender Pay Gap in France: Get Ready

Equality between men and women has been declared in France a “great national cause” of Emmanuel Macron’s Presidency in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

In March 2018, the French government unveiled an action plan for gender equality in the workplace consisting of ten measures aiming at reducing the gender pay gap and five measures to fight sexual and gender based violence. READ MORE

Business Groups Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Review Ninth Circuit Decision Rejecting Use of Prior Salary to Set Pay

In the wake of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Rizo v. Yovino, key employer-side groups have expressed support for U.S. Supreme Court review to determine whether employers who rely on prior salary to set starting pay can continue to do so consistent with the federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (“EPA”).

The EPA prohibits sex-based wage differentials between men and women who perform equal work, but allows employers to justify wage differentials even between such employees based on seniority, merit, production, or “any other factor other than sex.” The Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc decision in Rizo held that “prior salary alone or in combination with other factors cannot justify a wage differential” because prior salary is not a “factor other than sex.”  887 F.3d 453, 456 (9th Cir. 2018). The Ninth Circuit reasoned that a “factor other than sex” must be “job-related,” and thus rejected the defendant employer’s exclusive reliance on prior salary as a benchmark against which to set starting pay for new hires. The Court, however, left open the possibility that prior salary could permissibly “play a role in the course of an individualized salary negotiation.” Id. at 461. (For a comprehensive analysis of the Rizo decision, see Can Prior Pay Inform a New Hire’s Salary? (Daily Journal, May 11, 2018)).

On August 30, 2018, the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Yovino, filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Rizo. The petition argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should grant review because the Circuit Courts of Appeal diverge on whether prior salary is a “factor other than sex” (see, e.g., Wernsing v. Dep’t of Human Servs., State of Illinois, 427 F.3d 466, 469 (7th Cir. 2005)) and because prior salary is a “factor other than sex” under a plain reading of the EPA.

Since Yovino’s petition for writ of certiorari, several business groups have filed amici curiae briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the case. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America (Chamber) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently filed a brief for amici curiae in support of Yovino. The Chamber is the world’s largest business federation, representing the interests of 300,000 members and over three million companies and professional organizations. SHRM is the world’s largest human resources professional society, representing 300,000 members in more than 165 countries. Representing strong business interests, the amici brief asserts that the question of whether employers can rely on prior salary history in setting workers’ wages “is of extraordinary significance.” The amici brief argues that the Rizo decision deepens a circuit split on the legality of the widely-used and useful employment practice of relying on prior salary, which is legal in most jurisdictions and is a facially sex-neutral practice. The Chamber and SHRM also argue that the Ninth Circuit’s “tortured reading of the EPA’s catchall defense” could be read to call into question other legitimate and sex-neutral practices that rely on objective information, such as individualized negotiations and competitive salary bidding.

The Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center also filed a brief for amici curiae in support of Yovino’s petition. The CWC, whose membership includes 240 major U.S. corporations, is the nation’s largest nonprofit association of employers dedicated exclusively to ensuring compliance with fair employment and other workplace requirements. The NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices across the country. The CWC and NFIB argue that the “Ninth Circuit’s decision [] rests on a legally flawed premise—that an employer has an affirmative obligation under the EPA to eliminate disparities in pay, even when those disparities are caused by gender-neutral compensation policies.” The amici brief asserts that review of the Rizo decision is necessary to “resolve issues of substantial importance to the employer community,” and that permitting the decision to stand “will have a profound, largely negative, impact on employers nationwide.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will likely issue a decision on the petition for writ of certiorari later this year. Until then, it remains unclear whether Rizo will remain the guiding precedent in the Ninth Circuit. For employers operating in California, Rizo may not prompt significant changes given that the California Equal Pay Act separately provides that “prior salary shall not, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.” But employers elsewhere in the Ninth Circuit will need to evaluate their pay practices in light of Rizo unless and until it is overruled. Experienced counsel can assist employers in navigating these complex issues.

Hitting Home: Law Firms are Now the Target of a Spate of New Pay Equity Cases

Big Law is no stranger to providing advice on pay equity or defending pay equity lawsuits. But until recently, headlines generally featured lawsuits challenging the compensation practices of their clients, not the law firms that represented them.

In the last two years, however, Big Law has itself moved into the spotlight with a wave of pay equity suits brought by aggrieved female partners and, in some cases, female associates. To date, the number of these suits against Big Law—either pending or concluded with multi-million-dollar settlements—has reached double digits and shows no signs of slowing down. We think the details are worth a second look—particularly in light of the complicated dynamics at play in how law firm partner compensation is set. READ MORE

The New German Pay Transparency Act – Are You Ready?

Female hands counting large amount of euro currency cash banknotes, top view above office desk The New German Pay Transparency Act – Are You Ready?

On July 6, 2017, the Pay Transparency Act (Entgelttransparenzgesetz – EntgTranspG) came into force aiming to tackle the gender pay gap – which is suspected to range somewhere between 7 and 22 % in Germany. The Act mainly provides for information rights of employees and for the implementation of review and reporting procedures in companies.

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Salary History Becomes a Thing of the Past in New York City

On April 5, 2017, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law prohibiting employers or their agents from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant.  The law also restricts an employer’s ability to rely upon that salary history in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process “including the negotiation of a contract.” The term “salary history” is defined to include current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation, but does not include “objective measures of the applicant’s productivity such as revenue, sales or other production reports.”

There are several notable exceptions to the law.  READ MORE

Mind the Gap: The Final Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations are Announced!

In February this year, draft gender pay gap reporting regulations were published and comments were invited. There then followed an extended period while we waited for the final regulations to be published and the (many) consultation questions to be addressed. One could speculate about the chaos caused by Brexit [in Parliament] that caused this extended waiting period, but we won’t.  The main thing is that the final regulations are at last here and (subject to parliamentary approval) will come into force on April 6, 2017READ MORE

That’s History: New York City Proposes Ban on Use of Prior Salary

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has introduced before the New York City Council an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, if enacted, would prohibit employers from requesting or relying upon the salary history of an prospective employee in making starting salary and other pay decisions.  In the bill summary, Public Advocate James and her co-sponsors conclude that when employers rely upon historical salary information, “they perpetuate the gender wage gap” and suggest that this legislation would “help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.”  New York City’s proposed legislation follows closely on the heels of a wide-reaching pay equity statute recently enacted in Massachusetts that includes a prohibition on employers requesting or requiring applicants to provide their salary history.

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Lauri Damrell Co-Authors Pay Equity Column with California Labor Commissioner

Orrick partner Lauri Damrell collaborated with California Labor Commissioner Julie Su on a recent Op Ed column for the San Jose Mercury News outlining their joint efforts in California to address the gender pay gap. Damrell and Su are both members of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, and their column discussed their recent launch of the California Pay Equity Task Force to encourage more collaboration between employers and employees in finding solutions to the high-profile issue.

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Cross-Border Trends: Mind the Gap

In the heady days of the Coalition Government, gender pay gap reporting started to get some traction on the political agenda. This led to the 2011 initiative ‘Think, Act, Report’ which encouraged employers to voluntarily publish gender pay gap information. According to a Guardian article in August 2014, citing a parliamentary question from the shadow Equalities Minster at the time, 200 companies signed up to the initiative but only four of those ever published any data. £90,000 of public money later and we were clearly no further on.

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