The men employed by Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and South Tyneside councils, claimed they had been discriminated against, after female staff were awarded higher pay, following claims they did not earn as much as men doing similar jobs as them.
The male claimants, in roles such as care assistants and care takers argued they did similar jobs as gardeners and refuse collectors but did not earn as much. Unlike the women, these men had not previously been awarded settlements and had lower earnings than their female comparators.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled these men should be awarded the same settlement - and back pay -as the women, opening the gates for as many as 12,000 additional male employees to claim equal pay.
David von Hagen, an employment partner at law firm Winckworth Sherwood, told HR magazine: "This decision should not come as a surprise as the purpose of the Equal Pay Act (Schedule 1 of the Sex Discrimination Act) is to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sex; sex discrimination law is intended to protect both men and women and should not be thought of as a one-way street for aggrieved women.
"With this in mind, the question is straightforward: if a female claimant succeeds in her equal pay claim should her male colleague who carries out the same work as her, but who is now receiving less pay as a result of her successful claim, receive the same award? The Employment Appeals Tribunal has said yes."
But according to BBC reports, South Tyneside Council has already appealed against the ruling on the basis that if a female employee can compare herself to male employee and is successful, if a second male employee compares himself to the female employee he would be comparing himself to the first male employee.