In a delightful new ruling Thursday, the federal court decided that employers can legally pay women less than their male counterparts for the exact same job.
Of course, that isn’t exactly how the court framed it. According to the Associated Press, the federal appeals court ruled that employers can base salary on the previous pay of an employee — in other words, when an employer asks, “What did your previous job pay?” they can use the answer to that question to determine your future pay.
Here’s why this is problematic: that question is one of the major contributors to the gender pay gap. As Refinery 29 notes, if a woman is making less money than a man due to gender discrimination, this ruling will force a continuation of the pay gap that enforces sexism in the workplace.
Some states have been fighting individually to make this question illegal. Massachusetts, for example, passed a law in 2016 making it illegal for an employer to ask for salary history, and it is the first state in the country to pass such a law, those others are also working towards it.
“This decision is a step in the wrong direction if we’re trying to really ensure that women have work opportunities of equal pay,” Deborah Rhode, a gender equity law professor at Stanford Law School, told the Associated Press. “You can’t allow prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones or you perpetuate the discrimination.”
Data suggests it will take until 2152 to close the gender wage gap at this rate, so rulings like this are not just irritating — they’re harmful. We should not have to wait another 135 years for equal pay, and more action needs to be taken to protect against rulings of this nature.