What You Should Know About the Equal Pay Act in California

a person opening their paycheck

California is leading the charge when it comes to equal pay for women. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the toughest equal pay act in the country. The law prohibits employers from paying employees of different genders unequal wages for “substantially similar” work. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries with others and requires employers to prove that any pay disparities are based on bona fide reasons such as experience or education.

Not sure if your employer is violating the Equal Pay Act? Here's what you need to know.

What Is the Equal Pay Act?

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, which made it illegal for employers to pay men and women unequal wages for equal work. The law was a landmark piece of legislation that aimed to close the wage gap between men and women, but unfortunately, nearly 60 years later, women in the United States still earn less than men. In fact, according to the National Women's Law Center, women in the U.S. are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns—a figure that has barely changed in nearly two decades.

What Counts as Equal Work?

The first thing you need to know is that the Equal Pay Act covers all forms of compensation, including salary, bonuses, and vacation days. In order for the law to apply, however, the jobs in question must be “substantially similar.” This means that they require comparable skill, effort, and responsibility—not necessarily that they are identical. For example, two marketing managers might be considered to have substantially similar jobs even if one manages a team of three people while the other manages a team of 30.

Can I Discuss My Salary with My Co-Workers?

The answer is yes! One of the provisions of California's Equal Pay Act is that it prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries with others. This means that you can freely discuss your salary with your co-workers without fear of repercussions from your employer.

What Can I Do if My Employer Violates the Equal Pay Act?

If you believe your employer has violated the Equal Pay Act, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH is responsible for investigating claims of discrimination in California and can help you get the compensation you deserve. You can also file a private lawsuit against your employer—but remember that you only have two years from the date of the violation.

Seek Legal Guidance

The Equal Pay Act is an important law that protects employees from being paid unequal wages for equal work—but unfortunately, it's not always evenly enforced. If you believe your employer has violated the act, get in touch with an employment law attorney. Our team at Polaris Law Group can analyze your situation to help you determine if you have a valid case.

Get in touch with our team today at (888) 796-4010 to schedule a consultation!

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