California’s Equal Pay Act – Know Your Rights

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Denis ZilberbergMarch 15, 2021Discrimination

In California, it is wage discrimination for an employer to pay employees doing essentially the same thing different wages without a legitimate justification based on the qualifications of the employee and the requirements of the work being performed. After decades of having an Equal Pay Act in force to prohibit unequal wages paid on the basis of sex, California has strengthened its equal pay laws over the last several years in an effort to eliminate other non-justifiable wage differences.

California does not tolerate wage discrimination and if you are being paid less than someone who is doing basically the same job with basically the same qualifications, a Los Angeles wage discrimination attorney can help you get the equal pay that you have a legal right to.

History of Equal Pay Laws In California

California’s first Equal Pay Act became law in 1949. It required employers to pay men and women equally for doing the same job. It was not until 2016 that significant changes were made to the law expanding its scope and making it easier for employees to establish claims for wage discrimination based on sex.

The law was amended so that employees need not be performing exactly ‘equal’ work but only ‘substantially similar work’ to warrant equal pay. And the employees need not be working at the same ‘establishment’ run by the employer.

In addition, if an employer cannot justify a wage difference based on seniority, merit, or a system that measures earnings on the basis of quality or quantity of production, the employer must show a bona fide reason other than sex as the basis for paying different wages.

In 2017, employers were prohibited from using race or ethnicity as a basis for wage disparity and were denied the ability to use previous salary history as a factor in whether to hire or in how much to pay.

Most Recent Changes in Equal Pay Laws

The most recent changes to the California Equal Pay Act became effective in 2021 and require private employers with 100 or more employees to file an annual pay data report that details specified wage information. The report must detail the numbers of employees by sex, race, ethnicity, and also by job category. The report must indicate where the employees’ annual salaries fall as compared to the pay bands used by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What to Do if You Have an Equal Pay Claim

The Equal Pay Act applies to both public and private employers. An employee has 2 years from the date of the violation to file a claim (3 years if the violation is willful). Each unequal paycheck is a separate violation.

A claim can be filed with the Labor Commissioner’s Office or in court. The Labor Commissioner’s Office will conduct an investigation.  The employer being investigated is not allowed to retaliate against the employee making the claim and cannot prohibit the employee from discussing wage information with other employees.

An employee who prevails will get the wages that were not paid, plus interest, and then that amount again as damages. If the employee wins in court he or she is able to recover attorney’s fees and costs as well.

The decision whether to file your claim with the Labor Commissioner or in court may hinge on the facts of your particular case. An experienced Los Angeles wage discrimination lawyer from The Kaufman Law Firm can review the facts of your claim and advise you as to which forum is likely to bring you the best results.  Contact us for a consultation by clicking here or call us at 310-981-3404.



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