What you need to know about California’s new Fair Pay Act

Employees will have an easier time taking action against pay disparities

On January 1, 2016, the California Fair Pay Act will go into effect. This law is meant to address the wage disparities between men and women by requiring California employers to pay the same wages for "substantially similar" work.

Here are some things you might want to know about the new law.

What does "substantially similar" work mean?

This standard is stricter than the prior law, which only required employers to pay the same wages to men and women performing the same job. In practice, this allowed for relatively minor distinctions in duties to legally justify pay disparities.

Under the new law, courts will look at a variety of factors including job responsibilities, skill, effort and working conditions. It is not necessary for the employees to have the same job title, or even work in the same location.

When can employers pay different wages?

Employers are still allowed to pay different wages to employees doing similar work, but employers have to prove that the wage gap exists for some good reason other than the employees' genders. Some of these reasons include:

  • Seniority
  • Merit-based pay increases
  • The quality or quantity of the employees' production
  • Additional education, training or experience

It is important to note that the Fair Pay Act applies to all employers, both public and private. Unlike some other employment laws, there is no exception for small businesses with relatively few employees.

What if I think I'm being paid unfairly?

There's no requirement that employers disclose the salaries of everyone who works for them. However, they may not impose policies that prohibit employees from having these types of discussions. Additionally, employers may not take any negative action against an employee for asking questions, sharing their own salaries, or otherwise having conversations about employees' wages.

If you do think a gender-based disparity exists, it is a good idea to discuss the issue with a California employment law attorney. The attorney can review your case and help you come up with the best plan for moving forward. Notably, the Fair Pay Act does allow successful litigants to collect attorney's fees.

From their office in Pasadena, the lawyers at Hadsell, Stormer & Renick LLP represent workers throughout Southern California in a variety of employment discrimination claims. If you or a loved one is being mistreated at work, call our firm to set up a free initial consultation.