California Fair Pay Act – 2015

The California Fair Pay Act amends the California Equal Pay Act which was enacted in 1949 and last amended in 1985. The purpose of the act is to help eliminate the gender wage gap in California. To put this into perspective, women working full-time in California lose more than $33 billion each year as a result of the wage gap. The California Legislature found that in 2014, a woman working full-time year round earned an average of 84 cents to every dollar a man earned. This gap is even worse for women of color and Latina women. Senate Bill 358 Section 1 (a).

History of Equal Pay for Women

The California Equal Pay Act attempts to address pay inequality. However, because it contains out-of-date terms and loopholes that make it difficult to enforce, the California Fair Pay Act was enacted. For example, it eliminates the requirement that the wage differential be within the same workplace, and instead focuses on wage rates for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility. California Labor Code § 1197.5.

How does the California Fair Pay Act amend the California Equal Pay Act?

In order to eliminate the gender gap in California the California Fair Pay Act substituted the term “same establishment” for “substantially similar work” as already mentioned. For example, this will prohibit a company from paying a woman who works at a facility in Los Angeles, California, less than a man who works in the same position and has the same skill, effort, and responsibility, but works at a facility in San Francisco, California. In addition, the act now requires an employer to maintain records of wages and wage rates for three years rather than only two years. It also protects employees from discrimination and retaliation for disclosing their own wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise his or her rights under the California Fair Pay Act. This means that as an employee you are protected if you decide to discuss your own wages or another employee’s wages with other employees.

The California Fair Pay Act’s Effects on Employees

The most important change and relief to employees is that they are protected not only if they disclose their wages, but also if they ask about another employee’s wages or discuss another employee’s wages. This gives employees an opportunity to discover that wage discrimination exists in their workplace. Without knowing that a wage gap exists, women would not be able to challenge wage discrimination.

Moreover, the new act provides legal relief. If an employee has been discharged, discriminated or retaliated against because he/she has engaged in any conduct described in the California Fair Pay Act, then he/she may recover the following in a civil action: reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer, including interest thereon, as well as appropriate equitable relief. California Labor Code § 1197.5 (j)(2).

Do You Work in Any of the Following Industries/Occupations?

Although there is a gender wage gap across all industries, there are some industries that appear to discriminate more than others. The top 10 occupations with the largest gender wage gaps include: property and real estate managers; personal financial advisors; credit counselors and loan officers; insurance sales agents; first line supervisors of housekeeping and janitorial workers; financial managers; marketing and sales managers; inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers; chief executives; and education administrators. If you work in any of these industries/occupations be active and find out if you are getting paid what you deserve.