Comparable-Worth Movement Goes on despite Setback

Article excerpt

Federal judges, like other citizens across the land, reach differing opinions on the issue of comparable pay for comparable jobs.

Just two years ago in a landmark wage-discrimination case, Federal Judge Jack E. Tanner ruled in Tacoma that Washington State violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to pay women wages comparable to those of men. Tanner based his decision in part on a 1974 state-commissioned study showing that women in predominantly female jobs were paid 20-to-30 percent less than men in male-dominated jobs requiring comparable skills, mental effort, responsibilities, and working conditions.

Judge Tanner found overwhelming evidence of "direct, overt, and institutionalized discrimination" against women employees. He ordered the state to pay an estimated $838 million in immediate raises and back pay to women.

Washington State appealed the decision, but last year it set up a $40 million settlement fund and began trying to reach a voluntary agreement with its employees. On the eve of bargaining sessions, which began in Olympia Sept. 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco reversed Tanner's decision.

a panel of three judges ruled that Washington State did not have to offer women equal pay for jobs of comparable worth, even if its own study showed the jobs have equal value. …