SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An appeal court has rejected the Corrections Department's argument that the Fair Pay for Women Act doesn't apply to state employees.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports female New Mexico government employees filed lawsuits against the department claiming that they were being paid less than their male counterparts.

The department had argued that a 2013 law that prohibited wage discrimination based on gender and allowing workers to seek back wages did not apply to the state.

The state Court of Appeals' Thursday decision clears the way for a lawsuit for lost wages by a lawyer who had worked at the state's prison system.

The case will go back to the state District Court in Santa Fe.

The department can still appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com