Some New York companies might base employee salaries on what they were paid at their previous jobs. However, the U.S.Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that using this standard with female employees can result in pay discrimination, and using it as a basis to establish a female employee’s pay is not necessarily a defense.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was intended to make sure that women’s pay did not differ from that of men because of their sex. In this pay discrimination case, a woman who worked as a math consultant found that after working in the same job for three years, she made far less than a man who had just been hired. She then learned that she was the county’s only female math consultant and that although she had the most experience and education, she earned the least.

The woman had to first establish that prima facie pay discrimination had occurred. This meant demonstrating that the work done was substantially similar and done under similar conditions but that she was still paid less. Defenses available to an employer are that the pay was based on a merit system, a seniority system, quality, production or another factor except gender. When the employer argued it was based on her previous salary, the appeals court found that this was discriminatory.

People who believe they are facing pay discrimination or any other kind of discrimination in the workplace may want to consult an attorney. An attorney may be able to explain the worker’s rights and how to proceed. In many situations, it may be best to first try to address the issue internally. If the company does not respond appropriately, an attorney may be helpful if it is necessary to file a lawsuit.