Judges reaffirm sexual discrimination as the law of the land

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When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gets it wrong, they really get it wrong. Last week, the court ruled that it’s legal to discriminate against women as long as those women have already been discriminated against before.

Don’t rub your eyes. You read that right.

According to the Associated Press story on the ruling, “employers can legally pay women less than men for the same work based on differences in the workers’ previous salaries.” In other words, if a man and a woman hold the same job, as long as the woman is already making less than the man for the same work, it’s perfectly fine to continue to paying her less going forward.

Notes the AP, “A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit cited a 1982 ruling by the court that said employers could use previous salary information as long as they applied it reasonably and had a business policy that justified it.”

Let’s unpack that.

First, a history of discrimination justifies continuing that discrimination? Imagine applying this standard to racial or disability discrimination. Following this logic, if someone has already been discriminated against, it’s acceptable to continue discriminating against him/her because that precedent has been set. It’d therefore be legal to deny a black couple an apartment if that apartment complex previously only rented to whites. It’d be perfectly fine for a public library or courthouse to be inaccessible to someone in a wheelchair if it has always been inaccessible. This is not only preposterous, it’s contrary to all the Civil Rights progress we’ve made.

That astounding 9th Circuit statement further notes that discrimination is legal as long as it’s applied reasonably.

Wait, what?

Prior to the Civil War, do you suppose there was any plantation owner in the country who didn’t feel it was perfectly reasonable to own black people like animals, force them to do back-breaking labor and beat, torture and even kill them if they objected? According to the 9th Circuit, as long as those slaveholders believed this practice was “reasonable,” it’s all good. And, there are sickos who still believe slavery is reasonable as evidenced by their proudly displayed Confederate flags.

As for “the business policy that justified it,” plantation owners would absolutely have said that slavery was the cornerstone of their business policy.

So 9th Circuit… is it OK to own slaves again too?

(If you answered “yes,” you’re fired as one of my readers. Move along. You’re officially banned from interacting with me ever, even in print.)

The AP story quotes Deborah Rhode, gender equity law professor at the Stanford School of Law, as saying, “This decision is a step in the wrong direction if we’re trying to really ensure that women have work opportunities of equal pay. You can’t allow prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones or you perpetuate the discrimination.”

Amen, Deborah, and pity that all the Debs aren’t in charge of everything. What a fine world it’d be.

How about some irony: The 9th Circuit decision falls just after Equal Pay Day, April 4. This date, which is marked by rallies around the country each year, represents how far into the next year women must work to earn what men earned in one year. In other words, it takes a woman just over three months longer to earn what a man makes in one year for the same type of work, and it translates into women making 80 cents to a man’s dollar.

We call this “B.S.” kids.

A little more irony, and bitter at that: We have a federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender, on the books.


Target missed.

It’s been 54 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed — 54 years! — and we’re still fighting for women’s equality in the workplace. The 9th Circuit’s ruling is a blatant smackdown to the spirit and law of the Equal Pay Act and to equality itself. It gives male employers a free pass to justify paying women less for the same work because it’s perfectly reasonable, it’s part of their business plan, and thank you 9th Circuit sexists, it’s legal.

Ladies, we must stand shoulder to shoulder like the women before us and object. Loudly. We must keep pushing for equality. No one’s going to do it for us, least of all, men. We don’t have the luxury of becoming complacent and assuming we’re “there.” We’re so not there, and young women in particular… Millennials… you need to get on board. The reason you’ve grown up with relative equality, and can’t be denied the right to play sports or attend college or purchase a car or open a bank account without a husband to co-sign for it is because women who came before you fought for those rights.

I remember when girls weren’t even allowed to wear pants to school. Even in freezing cold weather, we were required to wear dresses, with our skinny little legs shivering on the January playground. And by the way — there’s hardly anything you can do on the playground in a dress, particularly if it’s a windy day. While boys got to run around and play, girls huddled together to stay warm. This was all “normal” once.

And girls, if you think being forced to wear dresses is outrageous, wait until you get a load of getting paid less than the guy next to you, simply because he’s a guy.

One more outrageous item: Although the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, it’s yet to be ratified. It’s true: to date, there’s no Equal Rights Amendment on the books.


It’s time to reinvigorate the push to make the Equal Rights Amendment law because based upon the 9th Circuit ruling last week, sexual discrimination is still the law of the land. It’s been declared legal to pay someone less simply because she has a vagina.

Ladies, fire up your Pink Pussy hats. We’re not done yet.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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