Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education

Pay equity is a matter of simple fairness. Yet in 2014, women who worked full time were paid on average just 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. When the gender pay gap is broken down across different populations, the numbers become even more stark. Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education highlights a significant underlying factor that contributes to the wage gap: employers’ practice of relying on an employee’s prior salary history to set new salary levels. AAUW is proud to support the case through our Legal Advocacy Fund.

The Story behind the Rizo Case

Aileen Rizo works as a math consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) in Fresno, California, training instructors in new ways of teaching math. Rizo was hired by the FCOE in 2009 after earning a master’s degree and teaching for 13 years. She and her family moved from Arizona to California for her new position.

In 2012, Rizo says, a male colleague who had recently been hired mentioned that he had been placed at step nine on the county’s 10-step pay scale. Rizo was shocked — she had been placed at step one on the scale when she began her job, even though she understood that she had more experience and seniority than her male colleague. Rizo says that after filing an internal complaint, she was told that the FCOE based new employees’ salaries on just one factor: the employee’s prior salary history. Based on the county’s policy, it seemed that Rizo’s less-experienced colleague was given a higher salary only because he had been paid more at his previous job than she had been paid at her previous job.

Rizo eventually filed suit under the Equal Pay Act and California sex status discrimination statutes. The case was filed in California state court in 2014.

Why Rizo Matters

Basing pay on salary history is one factor that can perpetuate the wage gap, precisely because women are generally paid less than men. But many people don’t understand the domino effect that pay inequity can have; Rizo’s case could help shed light on this important yet often unrecognized factor that contributes to the wage gap.

AAUW Members and Supporters Make It Possible

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund has been crucial to the success of many gender discrimination cases during its 33-year history. The case support program provides financial and organizational backing for plaintiffs who are challenging gender discrimination in education and the workplace. The funds come directly from the generous contributions of AAUW members.