Fair Pay Act increases wage discrimination protection for women in California

Employers cannot pay disparate wages for similar work

It is an unfortunate truth that women have historically earned less than men for doing the same jobs. Gender discrimination in the form of pay is an important topic and currently the subject of much discussion on both sides of the political spectrum.

California is leading the way in our nation to try and rectify wage discrimination. On October 6, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Fair Pay Act ( SB 358) into law. Under this act, employers may not pay different wages to employees of the opposite gender performing work that is substantially similar, among other protections included in Fair Pay Act.

Equal pay protection for women

Under the act, employers must prove that any disparity in pay is not due to gender but due to other factors. Specifically, the Fair Pay Act includes the following protections:

  • Employers cannot pay lower wages for "substantially similar work." This is determined by considering the "skill, effort and responsibility of the work performed in similar conditions."
  • Employers will have the burden to prove that an employee being paid a lower wage is not due to gender, but due to either seniority, a merit system, an earnings program based on work quantity or quality or a bona fide factor like experience, training or education. The bona fide factor must also be for a business purpose or necessity.
  • Employers may not have rules or policies that prohibit employees from discussing and disclosing their wages with other employees. However, employers and employees are not required to disclose wage information.
  • Employers must keep employee records regarding wages, pay rates, job classifications and any other employment terms and/or conditions for three years.
  • Employees will be protected against retaliation or discrimination from their employers for filing a claim under the Fair Pay Act.

The new protections provided by the Fair Pay Act go into effect January 1, 2016 and employees may start to file claims at that time. If an employer is found liable for wage inequality due to gender, the employee will be entitled to compensation for the amount of wages she did not receive plus interest.

What does this mean for female employees?

In addition to the protections discussed above, an employee can now bring an unequal pay claim for similar jobs in any of the employer's facilities. No longer must this type of claim be limited to the same job at the same facility. In addition, an employee can show that even if her employer has a bona fide business purpose for wage disparity, there are alternatives available that would serve the same purpose without paying different wages to employees doing substantially similar work. In this type of a situation, the employer may still be liable.

An employee who feels that wage disparity is due to gender discrimination can also file a claim without fear of retaliation, termination or other types of discriminatory practices by her employer. If an employee is faced with wage inequality, brings a claim and suffers some form of retaliation as a result, the Fair Pay Act permits the employee to bring a civil action against the employer within one year. Under the civil action, an employee may be entitled to reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and benefits and attorney's fees.

Enforcing your rights against wage inequality

If you are being paid lower wages than your male counterparts, you have a right to equal pay. Contact an attorney at Caskey & Holzman to learn more about your rights under the Fair Pay Act and how to hold your employer responsible for wage and gender discrimination. Our attorney's are dedicated to correcting injustices suffered in the workplace. Arrange a free case evaluation with us to discuss your situation today.