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  • By: Moss Bollinger
  • Published: August 10, 2022
A image of “Equal Pay Act” book - Moss Bollinger LLP

California’s Equal Pay Act was passed in 1949. California enacted the Fair Pay Act in 2015 to address issues left unchecked by the initial legislation. Do you know how California’s Equal Pay Act impacts your paycheck?

Does California’s Equal Pay Act Impact Your Paycheck?

If you live and work in California, you’ve probably heard of California’s Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act passed in 1949 aimed to close the wage gap between men and women. However, the original legislation included significant loopholes.

What About California’s Fair Pay Act?

In 2015, California enacted the Fair Pay Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act. California’s Equal Pay Act (and other legislative changes that followed) significantly improved the chances of success when California’s workers file wage and hour claims against their employers. If you need help deciding how California’s Equal Pay Act and Fair Pay Act apply to your employment situation, contact an experienced employment law attorney for more information.

What Protections Does the Equal Pay Act Put in Place?

California’s Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying certain workers less than workers of the opposite sex for “substantially similar work [considering a combination of] skill, effort, and responsibility…[.and when the two workers are performing their job duties under] similar working conditions.” While the legislation’s wording is gender neutral, it was created to prevent the pervasive practice of employers paying men more than women in the workplace.

The Amended Equal Pay Act Provides Additional Protections to California Workers:

Amendments to California’s Equal Pay Act protect California employees of other races and ethnicities from receiving less pay than coworkers performing substantially similar job duties. The legislation applies to public and private employees.

What is California’s Fair Pay Act?

The passing of the Fair Pay Act closed loopholes in the original Equal Pay Act that created difficulty for women attempting to sue their employers for violating the Equal Pay Act by paying them less than their male coworkers for substantially similar work. One change was to adjust the definition of eligible situations by changing “equal work” to “substantially similar work.” The change clarified that the focus was on the nature of the work performed – not the job title assigned. The current law also explained that workers seeking compensation for equal pay violations in the workplace do not need to reference other workers in the same location or establishment, which is very helpful for employers who run multiple facilities.

Updated Laws Require Employers to Keep Pay Records Longer

The updated legislation requires employers to retain wage and wage scale records for three full years (instead of the previously stated two). Increasing the time employers must keep records available is vital because the records allow the evaluation of wage differences.

Newer Legislation Moves the Burden of Proof to the Employer:

Before the legislative updates, employees seeking to file suit based on equal pay violations needed to prove that the employer had discriminatory intent. The updated legislation shifts the burden of proof to the employer, requiring them to explain why they are paying their worker less than other employees of a different sex, race, or ethnicity.

Improved Leverage During California Salary Negotiations:

Another improvement California workers benefitted from due to updates to the equal pay legislation (California Labor Code § 432.3) is that employers are barred from asking about previous pay rates and are required to provide pay scales upon request (when the request is reasonable). The legislation prevents employers from engaging a new hire at a low pay scale because their last position was based on discriminatory standards. Making this change provided more leverage to California workers during salary negotiations

When is an Unequal Wage Justified?

Employers can justify paying employees unequal wages if the difference in pay is based on certain factors:

  • Seniority
  • Merit
  • Production quantity or quality
  • Education, training, experience, etc.

However, even when an unequal wage is justifiable, the justification must be reasonable and account for the entire wage difference.

If your employer pays you a lower wage than your co-workers performing substantially similar work, contact Moss Bollinger, Sherman Oaks, California employment law attorney. He’s dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of his clients. Call (310) 982-2291 today for a free consultation or contact us online.

Moss Bollinger LLP - Sherman Oaks, CA

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