California’s Equal Pay Act: Impact on Your Wage

Image is of a group of work protestors protesting wages in California concept of wage rights

In 1949, California passed the Equal Pay Act to close the wage gap. The original law was not without its flaws. And in 2015, California passed the Fair Pay Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act.

Californians who pursue wage and hour claims against their employers have significantly increased their chances of success with this law and the subsequent changes. Our trusted employment lawyers have years of experience fighting for the rights of California workers. Call Fraigun Law 818-981-1800 today to get more information.

Table of Contents

Who is the Equal Pay Act Protecting?

The California Equal Pay Act prohibits employers to pay workers less than their counterparts for “substantially similar work” when it is viewed as a combination of skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions.

Although the law is not gender-neutral it was created to stop employers from paying more men than women. The Equal Pay Act, as amended, now protects employees from other races and ethnicities against being paid less for substantially the same work. The provisions in these laws apply to both public and private employers.

What Protections Does the California Equal Pay Act Provide?

California’s current compensation laws offer strong tools to level the playing field for all California workers:

Fair Pay Act

Fair Pay Act closed loopholes that existed in the original law that made it difficult for women who were unable to sue their employers. It changed the Equal Pay Act definition to include “substantially similar work” rather than “equal work”. This clarifies that it is the nature of work that matters, and not the job title.

With the current law, it is not necessary workers to compare themselves with others in the same establishment. This allows you to see if women make the same as men in other factories in your town. Employers are now required to keep records of wage and wage levels for 3 years, instead of 2, to be able to assess wage differences.

Employees no longer have to prove that their employer had a discriminatory intention. Instead, the burden is on the employer and they must explain why one employee is being paid less than other employees of a different sex, race or ethnicity.

California Labor Code SS432.3

California Labor Code SS 432.3 gives you new leverage in salary negotiations Specifically, it:

  • Employers are forbidden from asking about your previous salary
  • Employers must provide wage ranges and pay scales upon reasonable request

These rules will prevent your boss’s artificially low salary because it was based upon discriminatory standards.

Can an Employer Ever Justify Unequal Wage Rates?

Employers can justify paying less to certain employees if the wage differential is based on any one or more of the following:

  • Seniority system
  • A merit system
  • An economic system that measures earnings based on production quantity and quality
  • A bona fide factor that is not sex, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation (e.g. education, training, and experience)

The differences must also relate to the job, and be consistent with business necessity. If a different business practice would result with the same business goal without there being a difference in wages or salary, it is, therefore, not a business necessity. The justification must be fair and reasonable to be able to account for the differences in salary.

Is it Allowable Under the Law to Compare Wages with Coworkers?

Yes. Your employer can’t discipline you for disclosing your earnings or discussing wages with coworkers.

Can My Boss Retaliate Against Me for Talking to Coworkers or Filing a Complaint?

No. The Equal Pay Act explicitly prohibits employer retaliation.

What if I Have Questions Regarding My Work Wages?

Fraigun Law will help you determine if you have a California Equal Pay Act case. We have been representing California workers in compensation disputes for over 20 years. Let’s get the fair compensation that you deserve. Get in touch today by calling us at 818-981-1800 or filling out a contact form on our Contact page.



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