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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.