Fair and Equal Pay
On January 1, 2016, the California Fair Pay Act, went through a renaissance, with a new amendment authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, that turned California’s Fair Pay Act into one of the toughest equal pay laws in the nation. If you are a woman earning less than your male co-workers for performing similar work, you now have one of the strongest weapons in the country to end that sinful practice.
Today, women make up half the workforce and are the main breadwinners in many households, particularly those with children. But women only earn $0.84 for every $1.00 earned by their male co-workers for performing similar work.
Things haven’t changed since 1960! At this pace, it will take 45 years to obtain gender wage equality.
In 1949, California was one of the first to enshrine the principle of equal pay into its Labor Code with the Fair Pay Act: Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5. But that law largely laid stagnant because of too many exceptions and employees feared reprisal for speaking about or asking about their wages.
Vision Legal, Inc. was present to hear Senator Jackson speak about the reasons she fought so hard for the new amendment to the Fair Pay Act. To Senator Jackson, and all of the advocates that demanded this change, the reason is simple – in fact it’s a motto the Senator still features proudly on her website: “It’s time for women’s paychecks to finally reflect their true value and hard work. Fair pay is not just the right thing for women, it’s the right thing for their families, for California, for our businesses, and for our economy.”
Now that the legislators have done their job it’s time for employees and lawyers to do theirs. Here are the seven (7) things you need to know about California’s new Fair Pay Act:
1. No more fake excuses: Employers in California cannot pay employees lower wages than those paid to employees of the opposite sex for “substantially similar work.”
a. The new amendment narrows the “bona fide factor other than sex” exception; and
b. Requires employers to prove that the factor(s) account for the entire pay difference.
2. The work performed does not have to be exactly the same:
a. Employers cannot excuse paying women lower wages than men with the creation of fancy titles, or post hoc justifications.
b. “Substantially similar work” is determined by analyzing the skill, effort, and responsibility of each employee, while considering whether the work is being performed under “similar working conditions.”
i. For example, two insurance adjusters would be performing substantially similar work even though one of them may possess a molecular biology degree and the other does not; that would not excuse an employer paying them unequally.
3. The work does not have to be performed in the same establishment:
- a. Previously, certain employers such as franchise owners would pay employees unequally with the excuse that different locations/establishments were the reason – but no more!
4. It does not matter whether your employer intended to pay you less than a co-worker of the opposite sex:
- a. Intent is not part of the analysis. Employees do not need to prove that the employer is paying them unequally on purpose, or because of malicious or discriminatory intent.
5. “Pay” is not just limited to your wages:
- a. Pay includes hourly wage or salary, but also includes holiday, vacation or PTO hours, stock options, bonus or commissions, insurance, car or mileage allowance, reimbursements for travel expenses, and benefits.
6. You cannot be punished, reprimanded, or retaliated for asking or discussing pay:
- a. There is now express prohibition against employers from retaliating or discriminating against you for disclosing or asking about being paid less than a co-worker of the opposite sex, or because you speak out about a practice of paying men and women unequally.
7. Just because your old employer did it doesn’t mean your new one can:
- a. Importantly, just because you have always been paid less than your colleagues performing similar work does not excuse the practice ongoing. Employers cannot justify paying men and women unequally based on their prior unequal salary at their old job.
You Have a Right to Equal Pay Under the Law
Take the powerful new tools that were won with the new Fair Pay Act and use them! End the gender wage gap by demanding equal pay today. There is no excuse for complacency, silence, or acceptance. You are protected against retaliation and adverse employment action for exercising your legal rights.
Contact Vision Legal, Inc., now and speak with an Equal Pay/Fair Pay lawyer who can help you fight and win!
Neither you, nor the economy, have another 45 years to wait for gender pay equity.
Additional Resources: State of California, Equal Pay Act