In addition to the statutory protections established by the Fair Employment & Housing Act with respect to preventing workplace discrimination, the California Labor Code offers an additional arsenal for employees with to insure that employees are treated equally with respect to the payment of wages. Although California has prohibited differential rates of compensation between men and women for decades, the California Fair Pay Act that went into effect in 2016 expands the statutory protections regarding wages to accomplish the laudable goal of eliminating pay gaps between men and women. The Act, since inception, has been amended to prohibit employers from paying different wages based upon race and/or ethnicity. (California Labor Code § 1197.5[b])
The California Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying an unequal rate of pay to employees who perform “substantially similar work” solely because of their
sex, race and/or ethnicity. If there is a differential rate of pay between employees, an employer must prove that the difference is attributable to a legitimate factor other than a discriminatory reason. Legitimate reasons for a differential rate of pay can include education, experience, training, merit or an objective seniority system. To address more subtle mechanisms found to have influenced pay disparity, the California Fair Pay Act, effective January, 2018, prohibits an employer from asking a job applicant for their salary history. Similarly, the employer may not utilize the salary history as a basis for the prospective employee’s rate of pay and/or in deciding whether or not to hire the individual. If an employer violates the Fair Pay Act, an employee who has been harmed may recover the balance of wages owed, liquidated damages in amount equal to the wages owed, attorneys’ fees and costs. (California Labor Code §1197.5[h]). Similarly, an employer violates the Act if found to have retaliated against an employee for discussing their wages with co-employees and/or because they attempted to assert any of their rights under the Act.
Legal issues involving the Fair Pay Act can be both intimidating and confusing. Contact the Perrin Law Group today to insure that you are being treated fairly and receive all of the wages and benefits that you deserve!