The California Equal Pay Act, which works hand-in-hand with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to prohibit sex discrimination between men and women when it comes to pay, ensures that employers pay male and female employees the same amount of money when they perform reasonably similar jobs – but there’s a lot more to it than that.
And if you believe your employer has violated your right to be paid the same amount as your counterparts are paid, you may have good reason to file a claim – and you could be entitled to compensation.
What is the California Equal Pay Act?
As in many cases when it comes to employment law, California’s laws offer more protection than federal laws do. The California Equal Pay Act:
- Covers employees of the same employer who work in different locations.
- Makes it harder for employers to satisfy the “bona fide factor other than sex” defense when they want to provide reasons to support their decisions to pay different wages to employees engaged in “substantially similar work.”
- Requires employers to maintain wage and other employment-related records for 3 years.
- Requires equal pay for all employees who perform “substantially similar work” as it relates to skill, effort and responsibility, and that includes benefits and other forms of compensation.
Recent Amendments to the California Equal Pay Act
In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown amended the California Equal Pay Act to include race and ethnicity as protected categories. (This is where the California Equal Pay Act provides broader protection than federal law does.) Another amendment to the Act prohibits employers from justifying pay differences based only on the grounds of prior salary.
What is the Equal Pay Act of 1963?
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex by paying them different wages for equal work. This applies when employees have jobs that require “equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” There are a few reasons that employers can pay men and women differently, though, including when the payment or salary is based on:
- Quantity or quality of production
- Factors other than sex
A Word on Substantially Similar Work
The term substantially similar work means work that requires employees to have similar skill levels, put in about the same amount of effort, and calls for roughly the same amount of responsibility under similar working conditions.
- Skill means ability, education, experience and training required to get the job done
- Effort means how much mental and physical exertion is necessary to get the job done
- Responsibility means the degree of accountability or the duties required in performing the job
- Working conditions means the workers’ physical surroundings
When Could You Have a Claim Against an Employer Under the California Equal Pay Act?
While no two cases are the same, and you should always speak to a Glendale employment attorney when you think you may have been discriminated against, you may have a claim if you know you’re being paid less than an employee (or multiple employees) of the opposite sex, another race, or another ethnicity for substantially similar work. If you make this type of claim, your employer may be responsible for providing a legitimate reason for the disparity in pay.
You only have 2 years from the date of the violation to file a claim, though, which means you don’t have much time. (If the violation was willful, you have 3 years to file). The good news: Every paycheck that reflects unequal pay counts as a violation and extends your time to file a claim.
You may be able to recover the differences in wages, interest and an equal amount as liquidated damages. Liquidated damages is an amount of compensation some people are entitled to receive.
In some cases, you can also recover your attorney’s fees and costs.
How Would You Know if You’re Not Being Paid Fairly?
Some employers prohibit employees from discussing their wages with each other – it’s known as wage secrecy – but that’s against the law. Employers cannot stop employees from discussing their wages in any way, even through an employment contract or a non-disclosure agreement.
Do You Think Your Rights Under the California Equal Pay Act Have Been Violated?
If you suspect that your employer has violated your rights under the California Equal Pay Act, call us for guidance at 818-230-8380 for a free case review. If you’re entitled to compensation and you’re within the right timeframe to make a claim, we can help you.