What is the California Equal Pay Act?
In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Equal Pay Act, a piece of legislation determined to expand existing anti-discrimination laws in California workplaces. The Act prohibits employers from forbidding employees from discussing their wages or the wages of other employees. Pay secrecy policies, whether formal or informal, often reflect an effort by an employer to conceal wage discrimination. To truly implement equity in wages, it is necessary to increase pay transparency and allow workers to freely discuss their salaries.
The anti-pay secrecy requirements under the California law reflect similar prohibitions under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the California Labor Code, and an Executive Order that applies to federal contractors. California is one of ten states (Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont) that have pay-secrecy laws.
Is it Illegal to Discuss Wages?
The NLRA allows workers to discuss topics, such as wages, that affect them at work. Under the NLRA, even an employee who signs a non-disclosure agreement still has the legal right to discuss pay with coworkers and others. Employers legally may not discipline or terminate employees for discussing their pay at work.
Who is Covered Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)?
The NLRA only covers workers treated and defined as an employee. Under NLRA, workers who are considered independent contractors and agricultural workers are not treated as employees. Local, state, and federal government workers are also not subject to the NLRA.
California Labor Code in § 232
However, California law provides some additional safeguards. The California Labor Code in § 232 reads as follows:
No employer may do any of the following:
(a) Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from disclosing the amount of his or her wages.
(b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose the amount of his or her wages.
(c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages.
Executive Order 13665 signed by President Obama in April 2014 prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who inquire about, discuss, or disclose personal compensation information.
Eliminating pay secrecy is just one step to ending discrimination and occupational segregation against women in the workplace. Pay transparency and increased access to paid leave for child and elder care represent progress but there still is a long way to go.
California employees are fortunate to have important and valuable rights in the workplace. These precious rights must be asserted and protected at every moment. California businesses that violate, restrict, or eradicate these workplace rights face serious legal consequences. Employers may not retaliate against you for asserting these rights or taking any legitimate employee action. Retaliation is illegal and subject to the payment of damages. Moss Bollinger is an employment law firm that works zealously to protect California employees from any employer that infringes upon their rights as an employee in California.
Contacting and discussing your case with an experienced employment law attorney is often the best way of protecting important legal rights. Moss Bollinger takes pride in holding employers accountable for illegal acts of retaliation against employees. We work on a contingency basis which means that we only receive a fee if you win your case.