What to Know

Equal Pay For Equal Work - California Laws

Equal Pay Laws. Pay discrimination. Los Angeles, California.

If you believe you have an equal-pay claim against your California employer, call us at 888-762-0297 to discuss your case. We don't charge for consultations.

We represent clients in Los Angeles, the surrounding counties, and throughout Northern and Southern California.

Equal pay - California laws

For decades now, California law prohibited employers from paying women lower wages than men for equal work. In 2015, legislators passed the California Fair Pay Act to further protect employees against wage discrimination based on sex and other protected characteristics. California’s equal pay laws can be found in California Labor Code Section 1197.5 and Section 432.3.

While the California Equal Pay Act initially made it illegal for employers to pay women less than men for the same work, legislators have amended and strengthened the Act several times in the past few years. Under the California Equal Pay Act, it is illegal for employers to pay employees lower wages based on gender, race, or ethnicity.

Effective January 1, 2018, California Labor Code § 423.3 prohibited employers from seeking job applicants’ salary history information.

Do equal pay laws apply to public sector employees?

Since 2018, when changes to the California Equal Pay Act became effective, wage discrimination protections cover public employees. Thus, California’s equal pay laws apply to both private and public sector employees.

Can a company pay different wages for the same job?

No, it is unlawful for California employers to pay different wages for the same or a substantially similar job to discriminate against an employee based on sex, race, or ethnicity. However, the key is to determine whether employees perform substantially similar work to determine whether a company can lawfully pay different wages.

Under California’s Equal Pay Act, a substantially similar job refers to work requiring an equivalent level of effort, skill, and responsibility, as well as performance under similar conditions:

Effort refers to the physical and mental demands that are necessary to get the job done.

Skill refers to the employee’s level of experience, education, training, and ability to perform the job.

Responsibility refers to the worker’s degree of accountability when performing the job.

Working conditions refer to the hazards the employee is exposed to as well as the physical surroundings.

It is essential to speak with an experienced attorney to determine whether your employer violated California’s equal pay laws when paying you lower wages than the wages paid to employees of the opposite sex or another race or ethnicity.

Can employees discuss wages in California?

In addition to expanding wage discrimination protections for employees, the California Equal Pay Act of 2015 also made it illegal for employers to prohibit employees from discussing their wages with coworkers. In other words, your right to discuss wages with other employees is protected by California’s equal pay law.

The provision is aimed at eliminating wage discrimination and promoting pay transparency in California workplaces.

Pay data reporting requirements 2021 in California

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring covered employers to report pay data to the state starting January 1, 2021. Pay data reporting requirements apply to private employees with at least 100 employees.

Under the new legislation, covered employers must report pay and hours-worked data to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) by itemizing the following:

  • Establishment
  • The employee's job category
  • The employee's sex, race, ethnicity, and sex.

The first submission of pay data was due on March 31, 2021. Covered employers must report similar data every year.

How do you prove equal pay discrimination?

You may be entitled to compensation for equal pay discrimination as long as you can prove discrimination under California Equal Pay Act. When filing a claim alleging equal pay discrimination, you must prove the following:

  1. You were paid lower wages than an employee performing substantially similar work; and
  2. The pay difference was because of their sex, race, or ethnicity.

Once an employee files their equal pay discrimination claim, the employer will have to provide strong evidence proving that they had a legitimate reason to pay the claimant less than other workers performing the same job.

If the employer cannot prove a legitimate reason for the disparity in pay, they may be held accountable for wage discrimination based on sex, race, or ethnicity.

The key to winning an equal pay discrimination claim is to prove that the employee who earns more than you is doing substantially similar work.

For more information or with questions on how to prove equal pay discrimination, call our office.

What damages are available under the Equal Pay Act?

If you successfully prove wage discrimination under the California Equal Pay Act, you may be entitled to recover the following:

  • The difference in wages
  • Interest
  • Court costs and legal fees associated with litigation
  • An equal amount of pay difference as liquidated damages

The employment lawyer at The Sempers Law Firm will help you maximize your recoverable damages when pursuing your equal-pay claim in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California.

Challenges of equal pay lawsuits

When an employee files a wage discrimination claim under the California Equal Pay Act, their employer may be able to prove a legitimate reason for the pay difference based on the following factors:

A merit system that rewards employees for exceptional performance

A seniority system that compensates employees based on years of service

A system that measures employees’ earnings based on quantity or quality of production

Other bona fide systems in place upon which an employer can base the difference in pay (the system cannot be based on employees’ sex, race, or ethnicity)

Consult with an attorney to determine whether your employer has a legitimate reason for the pay difference.

California Equal Pay Act statute of limitations

Under the California Equal Pay Act, employees have two years from the date of the violation to file a claim against their employer. However, if you can prove that the violation was willful, the statute of limitations can be extended to three years.

Note: Every paycheck with unequal pay is considered a violation.

How long does it take to settle an equal pay lawsuit?

Every case is unique, which is why the amount of time it will take to settle your equal-pay claim or lawsuit depends on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The severity of the violation
  • The number of equal pay violations
  • The experience and skill of your employment lawyer
  • The availability of evidence proving equal pay discrimination
  • Your employer's willingness to cooperate

To determine how long it will take to settle your claims, contact our office and ask to speak with an employment lawyer.

For more information

If you suspect that your employer violated equal pay laws, call us at 888-762-0297 to discuss your situation. We are here to help.

The initial consultation is free.

We represent clients in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Orange County, and Northern and Southern California.

Last updated on September 28, 2021.

Additional Resources

• California Equal Pay Act

• California Labor Code Section 1197.5

• California Labor Code Section 432.3.

• California Labor Code § 423.3