California’s Fair Pay Act Addresses Disparity in Earnings between Women and Men
On January 1, 2016, the new Fair Pay Act (Cal. Labor Code §1197.5) in California was amended to broaden already existing laws against gender pay inequality. The new law is arguably the nation’s strictest (or really, fairest) fair-pay law.
For example, the former Fair Pay Act stated that no employer shall pay any individual in the employer’s employ at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.
The amendment to the Fair Pay Act broadened the law such that now an employer shall not pay any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions. The notable difference in the amended law is the Fair Pay Act now does not require a comparison of wage rates “in the same establishment.” Rather, wage rates may be compared with those of the opposite sex outside of the same establishment, but whom have “substantially similar work.”
In addition, the amended Fair Pay Act adds a new subsection prohibiting employers from discharging or in any manner discriminating or retaliating against any employee because the employee invoked or assisted in any manner the enforcement of this law. The new law also now states that an employer shall not prohibit an employee from disclosing the employee’s own wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging other employees to exercise his or her rights of talking about wages.
According to data cited in the legislation, women in California earn an average of 84 cents for every dollar earned by men. The national average remains roughly 79 cents per dollar for full-time female workers, compared with their male colleagues. With the law promoting discussion of wage rates amongst co-workers, gender pay inequality will further come to light.
For any employee receiving less than the wage to which the employee is entitled under this law, may recover in a civil action the balance of the wages, including interest, and an equal amount (essentially as a penalty), together with costs of the suit and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
If you believe you are the victim of gender pay inequality, contact the lawyers at Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, LLP.