While California’s equal pay law is one of the toughest in the nation, it was recently made stronger by changes that took effect on Jan. 1, 2016. That is because these changes now require California employers to pay women and men equally for “substantially similar work,” regardless of their specific job titles.
Prior to this, the California equal pay law had been interpreted by the courts to mean that only men and women holding the exact same job should be paid equally. With the new California Fair Pay Act (CFPA), however, California employers will be required to also value similar work at the same rate of pay, regardless of the gender of the employee. While this remarkable advance in the equal pay movement is expected by some to lead to more employment litigation in California, it has also set the stage for similar statutes to be developed in other states – including in New York and Pennsylvania – and at the national level in Congress.
Brief Background on the California Fair Pay Act
The California Fair Pay Act, which started as Senate Bill (SB) 358, was presented to the Senate by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) in September 2015. It was passed by California lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2015 at a signing ceremony held at Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in the Bay Area.
After signing this bill into law, Gov. Brown stated:
The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved with this kind of bill.
California Fair Pay Act: Additional Changes
In addition to clarifying that California employers are required to pay male and female workers equal pay for substantially similar work, the California Fair Pay Act also:
- Requires employers to pay workers equally for similar work even if they are stationed at different job sites – In other words, if employers staff workers performing similar jobs at different locations or job sites, these workers, regardless of their gender and specific location, will generally be entitled to equal pay.
- Requires employers to establish a legal basis for wage disparities between male and female workers performing similar work – In the event an employer pays a male and female worker different rates, that employer is legally required to demonstrate that the disparity is due to job-related factors, like merit or more experience, rather than gender discrimination.
- Prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who discuss or ask about wages – This aspect of the CFPA is intended to eliminate the shroud of “secrecy” around pay. Some believe that allowing open discussions of wages and empowering workers to discuss wages and possible wage disparities will be pivotal to closing the gender wage gap.
Lawmakers, labor advocates and others have expressed support for the California Fair Pay Act. Articulating this support, Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, told CNN:
[The CFPA] says you can’t hide behind job titles, you have to look at what people actually do… [it] lets employers know what is and isn’t allowed.
Contact a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP
If you have been the target of an employer’s wage and/or hour violations, contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP for superior representation.
Call our firm at (310) 575-2550 or email us using the contact form on this page to set up an initial free consultation with one of our lawyers.