California Fair Pay ActThe California Fair Pay Act signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown provides additional protection for equal pay in the state. California employers must offer equal pay for “substantially similar work,” though employers can offer different pay in certain situations.

New Requirements

Under the old California law, employers were required to provide equal pay only when employees were engaged in the same work at the same location. As amended, California now requires that employers pay male and female employees the same wage if they are engaged in “substantially similar work,” not necessarily the same work.

The law also prohibits paying workers differently on the basis of race and ethnicity.

The new law also requires equal pay even if the employees were in different locations. So a bookkeeper in one office should be paid the same as a bookkeeper in a different office.

Anti-Retaliation Rights

If an employee brings an equal pay claim, then their employer might retaliate against them. Retaliation can take many forms, such as:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Reduced hours or wages
  • Reduced benefits
  • Exclusion
  • Less favorable work assignments

If an employee believes she has been the victim of retaliation for exercising her rights under the California Fair Pay Act, she can file a lawsuit in court within one year.

No More Wage Secrecy

The California Fair Pay Act also prevents employers from prohibiting their employees from talking about wages. According to the legislature, secrecy around wages is one of the mechanisms that allows pay disparities to flourish.

Under the old law, employers could not prevent employees from talking about their wages but could keep them from talking about other employees’ wages. Under the new law, an employer cannot prohibit employees from discussing their wages, the wages of other employees, or asking about wages.

Business Justification Defenses

The new law still allows an employer to pay different wages if they have a valid business justification. For example, they can justify a pay discrepancy on the following grounds:

  • Seniority
  • Merit
  • Quality- or quantity-based pay systems

However, the business justification must explain the entire pay justification, and the employer must have reasonably relied on it. In other words, it cannot be a pretext that an employer uses to hide their true motive.

Protecting the Rights of Workers

If you have concerns about equal pay or retaliation, you should schedule a consultation with a wage and hour attorney as soon as possible.

At the Workplace Rights Law Group, we have represented the rights of employees for decades. Contact us today.


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