The Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc ruling that employers can’t excuse sex-based pay gaps by pointing to workers’ past salaries deepened a circuit split over the federal Equal Pay Act, a development that could push the issue up to the US Supreme Court.

The majority’s opinion puts the Ninth Circuit directly at odds with the Seventh Circuit amid a growing debate between workers’ and employers’ advocates over whether the common practice of basing salary offers on workers’ past salaries perpetuates illegal pay disparities between men and women.

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