What Is The California Equal Pay Act?
You probably already knew that gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace was illegal. But what you may not have known was that discrimination in salary or payment, is also illegal. California has powerful laws that prevent unequal pay in the workplace based on gender.
Prohibited Acts Under the Law
Specifically, the law says that an employer can’t pay a wage to a worker of a given gender, that is less than that which is paid to the other gender, for similar work. Similar work doesn’t have to be perfectly identical, or the exact same job for the purposes of comparison. It is the nature of the work that matters, not official titles or working in the identical field.
The only time differing wages may be paid between a male and female worker, is based on seniority, merit, or a “bona fide” criteria that is not gender or sex. Employees can also be paid differently if payment is based on production—an objective neutral way to measure performance (for example, how many items are sold, or how many customers the employee generates).
The law also says that employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing (and thus comparing) their salaries with each other.
No Intent Needed
It doesn’t matter is the unequal pay was an accident, or unintended; no malicious or discriminatory intent needs to be proven to make a claim under the law. Rather, it is the employer who has to show a valid reason why employees of different genders are being paid differently.
Offers of Employment
The law even restricts how an employer can offer you an initial salary. An employer can’t use your formal salary at a previous job, as the bona fide reason why you are being paid an unequal salary. In other words, just because a woman may be making more than other women in the field or industry elsewhere, is irrelevant, if the woman is still making less than a man is for the same job.
Penalties and Damages
Penalties for violating the law can be severe; an aggrieved worker can get damages measuring the difference between what the employee was actually paid, and what the employee should have been paid if he or she had been paid a wage equal to the other gender. That includes retirement money, which may be affected by earning less of a salary.
Employees can get back pay for up to three years worth of salary.
The law also allows employees to collect attorneys fees, meaning that if employees do win, the employer will have to pay the attorneys fees.
The law doesn’t only protect unequal pay for gender; it also applies if employees of different races or ethnicities are being paid unequally as well.
Are you being paid fairly? Contact the San Jose employment law lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today to see if you have been discriminated against on the basis of your gender or race at work.