The concept of comparable worth is rooted in a simple premise: salaries should be based on the intrinsic value of the employee's work to the employer. Yet attempts to enact comparable worth measures have caused controversy in state legislatures, city boardrooms, and courts. Increasingly, the debate has centered on the market's role in setting wages. Comparable worth advocates argue that employers pay women a sex-slanted wage which is illegal under Title VII. Employers, in turn, urge that far from being discriminatory, such wages reflect the market's workings, and are necessary to their survival. The defense has hitherto proven remarkably successful before the courts. Two recent decisions illustrate the ground gained by its advocates. This Comment is an analysis of the two decisions. It focuses on the "market defense" itself by examining its validity in the context of current trends in wage policy. Also included is a discussion of its strategic uses by an actual employer and a look at the "politics" of comparable worth in Washington and the city of San Francisco.
Comparable Worth and the Market Defense: A National Debate, 16 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.