Jun 20, 2019

Equal pay lawsuit raging

The Women’s Studies Program hosted an event Monday, which featured guest speaker Aileen Rizo, a math consultant at the Fresno County Office of Education, who is pursuing a lawsuit in effort to receive equal pay.

The lecture featured Rizo’s story and how she plans to continue to fight for justice.

“I think that’s important for students to hear [Rizo’s story], especially for people who are about to go into the workforce because they need to know basically who they should be trusting and who they should not,” said Women Studies professor Kathryn Forbes. “I think her story in important because it shows how people can use the law to remedy problems or discrimination within an institution.”

In July of 2012 while on a lunch break, Rizo overheard a male colleague that had just been hired as a math consultant state his starting salary. He was making $12,000 more than she was. Employers at the County Office are paid on a 10-step scale and advance one step each year.

Rizo who has been working at the office for four years, started on step one and moved up per year. Her new male colleague however, started on step nine.

Feeling humiliated, she went to human resources hopeful this problem could be fixed quickly. To her surprise the response she received was employees salaries are based on their previous pay.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 states that two people in the same establishment that do the same work must be given equal pay.

“If you can’t be equal in the workplace, how can you be equal anywhere else?” Rizo said.

The HR representative told Rizo they would get back to her within a week. A week turned into a month. She finally received a letter stating there was nothing to be done.

“When we see injustice we have two choices, to walk away or to confront it,” Rizo said. “I wanted to walk away but when I came home and looked at daughters I knew I couldn’t.”

Rizo was interviewed by Maria Shriver and has received national attention. She is using social media to share her case with those who are willing to listen.

Gov. Brown invited Rizo and her family to the signing of The Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday. The bill would update the Equal Pay Act and would help secure equal pay for equal work.

Rizo is suing the Fresno County Office of Education in an effort to receive equal pay.  She continues to work for the county office. Her trial will be on January 2016.

Sociology major Erica Saragosa, said it was fascinating to know Rizo’s battle.

“I was really interested to know how she’s still there how she’s still working for them knowing they started paying her less and how she’s making sure she doesn’t give them any reasons to fire her,” Saragosa said. “It was just amazing.”

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