Late last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Fair Pay Act (FPA) into law. Starting January 1st, this new law will go into effect and California will have the strongest equal pay protections in the United States. Our state could even serve as an example for future federal equal pay legislation. The FPA has several additions that will ensure workers of any gender are paid equally for substantially similar work.
- Under prior laws, workers could file claims against employers only if wage discrepancies occurred at the same establishment. Let’s say for example a waitress for a California restaurant chain wants to file a claim against her employer. Under old laws, she would have been required to compare the wages of other workers at her specific location. The FPA will allow her to compare the wages of workers at any of the chain’s locations, not just her own.
- The FPA requires employers to prove that pay discrepancies are based on merit, seniority or quality of work. Workers with substantially similar work must also be paid similar wages. This change puts a tougher burden of proof on employers to show pay discrepancies are not based on gender. Employers can no longer use work titles to justify gender discrimination.
- Employers cannot retaliate against workers for asking about wages, or encouraging other employees to do the same. If workers want to discover more information on wages at their place of employment, they cannot be fired.
- Employers are now required to keep records of wages, titles and work duties for up to three years.
Why Equal Pay Laws Are Needed
According to a 2013 study by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the wage gap costs full-time female workers $33.6 billion every year. The same study found that California women earned 85 cents on the dollar compared to their male coworkers. For these reasons, many have argued the FPA is long overdue.
Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob is Los Angeles employment law firm dedicated to protecting the work rights of Californians.