Mastering Salary Conversations: Navigating California’s Hiring Landscape

Salary Conversations: Equal Work, Equal Pay

In the competitive job market of California, discussing salary history can be a nerve-wracking experience for many applicants. However, it’s essential to know that the state has put forth robust laws to protect job seekers from wage discrimination based on their past earnings. This article aims to empower you, the job seeker, by shedding light on these regulations and offering guidance on how to navigate salary conversations with confidence and knowledge.

Table of Contents

The Legislation: California’s Equal Pay Act

The California Assembly Bill 168, or the California Equal Pay Act, is more than just a piece of legislation. It’s a beacon of hope for many job seekers, ensuring that their worth is determined by their skills, experience, and the job’s requirements, not their past earnings. This law is a significant step towards eradicating wage disparities and ensuring a level playing field for all.

Source: California Legislative Information – Assembly Bill No. 168

Key Provisions of the Act

  1. Equal Pay for Equal Work: At its core, the Act mandates that employers pay employees of opposite sexes equally for performing substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.
  2. Expansion to Race and Ethnicity: In 2016, the Act was expanded to prohibit wage disparities not just based on gender but also on race and ethnicity.
  3. Shift of Burden: If a wage disparity is identified, the burden is on the employer to justify the difference based on legitimate factors such as a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any other bona fide factor other than sex, race, or ethnicity.
  4. Prohibition of Retaliation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for invoking their rights under the Act, assisting others in doing so, or discussing or disclosing their own wages or the wages of others.
  5. Salary History: With the introduction of Assembly Bill 168 in 2017, the Act was further strengthened to prohibit employers from seeking salary history information from job applicants. The rationale is to prevent perpetuating historical wage disparities.

The Deep-Rooted Rationale Behind the Law

Wage disparities, especially among women and minority groups, have tainted the job market for decades. When employers base salary offers on past earnings, they unknowingly (or knowingly) perpetuate a cycle of wage inequality. The California Equal Pay Act is not just a law; it’s a movement towards ensuring that every individual, regardless of their past, gets paid what they deserve based on their qualifications and the job’s market value.

Employer Restrictions: What They Can’t Do

Knowledge is power. As a job seeker, understanding what employers cannot do is your first line of defense. Under AB 168, employers in California:

  • Cannot ask about your past earnings. This restriction ensures that you’re evaluated based on your potential and not your history.
  • Cannot use your salary history as a deciding factor in offering employment or determining your salary. Your future should not be dictated by your past.
  • Must provide a pay scale for the position if you ask for it. This ensures transparency and allows you to make informed decisions.

Remedies for Violations

Employees who believe their rights under the Act have been violated can either file a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or pursue a private lawsuit. Remedies may include back pay, interest, and equalizing wages. In cases of willful violations, employers may also be liable for civil penalties.

Empowering Yourself: Approaching Salary Conversations 

Walking into a salary negotiation can be daunting, but with the right tools and mindset, you can ensure that the scales tip in your favor:

  • Research is Key: Equip yourself with data. Understand the industry standards for the role you’re applying for and set your expectations accordingly.
  • Your Future is Bright: Center the discussion around your aspirations, the unique skills you bring to the table, and how you envision growing with the company.
  • Stand Firm on Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with AB 168. If an employer crosses the line, be prepared to assertively, yet politely, stand your ground.
Empower yourself and know your rights when have salary conversations in California
Empower yourself and know your rights when have salary conversations in California

The Art of Negotiation: Making Your Case

Negotiating is more than just quoting a number. It’s about showcasing your worth. Remember to consider the entire compensation package, including benefits, work-life balance, and growth opportunities. Approach the negotiation table with confidence, backed by thorough research and a clear understanding of your value.

FAQs: Your Questions Answered

  1. Is it legal for an employer to ask about my past salary in California?
    • No, under the California Equal Pay Act (AB 168), employers cannot ask about your past earnings.
  2. Can an employer base my salary offer on my previous earnings?
    • No, employers in California cannot use your salary history as a deciding factor in offering employment or determining your salary.
  3. What should I do if an employer asks about my salary history during an interview?
    • You can politely inform them that under AB 168, they are prohibited from inquiring about past earnings. You can also choose to redirect the conversation towards your skills, experience, and the value you bring to the position.
  4. Am I entitled to know the pay scale for a position I’m applying for?
    • Yes, if you request it, employers in California are required to provide a pay scale for the position.
  5. How should I approach salary negotiations without discussing my past earnings?
    • Focus on the value you bring, your skills, and the industry standards for the role. Research is key; be prepared with data on average salaries for the position in California.
  6. What if I voluntarily disclose my salary history? Can it be used against me?
    • While you can voluntarily disclose your salary history, employers cannot use it as a basis to determine your salary offer.

How Fraigun Law Group Champions Your Cause

At Fraigun Law Group, we’re not just lawyers; we’re advocates for justice. We understand the intricacies of employment law and are dedicated to ensuring that every job seeker in California is treated with the respect and fairness they deserve. If you ever feel that your rights under AB 168 or any other employment law have been infringed upon, remember that we’re here to champion your cause. Reach out to us for expert advice, guidance, and representation. Your fight is our fight.




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