Equal Pay For Equal Work: California’s Equal Pay Law
According to official findings by the California Legislature, in 2014, the gender wage gap in California was $0.16 on the dollar. In other words, for every dollar a man earned, a woman earned only $0.84. The situation is far worse for women of color. For example, Latina women make only 44 cents for every dollar Caucasian men earn. The impact of this disparity is huge. According to the legislative findings, women collectively working full time in California lose about $33,650,294,544 every year because of the gender wage gap.
To address this very serious problem, in 2015, the California Legislature enacted the Fair Pay Act, which made important changes to California’s equal pay law. Those changes became effective on January 1, 2016, making California’s one the toughest equal pay laws in the country.
An employee (typically a woman), who establishes a claim under the law can recover twice the amount of wages she lost because of the violation, plus interest on the lost wages, attorney fees and costs of suit.
What Does California’s Equal Pay Law Say?
California’s equal pay law is found at Section 1197.5 of the California Labor Code. It provides that:
An employer shall not pay any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.
Translated into English, the law makes illegal for an employer to pay an employee of one sex less than another employee of the opposite sex when both employees have similar jobs. The similarity of the jobs is judged by comparing the skill, effort and responsibility required for both.
Are there Exceptions?
Yes. As with nearly every legal rule, there are exceptions to the equal pay law. An employer will not be liable under the equal pay law if it can show that the disparity in pay is the result of one of the following four factors:
1. A seniority system.
2. A merit system.
3. A system that measures earning by quantity or quality of production.
4. A legitimate factor other than sex, such as education training or experience, except that this exception does not apply if the employee can show that an alternative business practice would serve the same purpose without the wage differential.
What Can an Employee Recover in a Lawsuit?
California’s equal pay law allows employees who suffer gender wage loss to recover:
- Wages the employee was deprived of: The difference between what the employee was paid and what an employee of the opposite sex was paid.
- Liquidated damages: An addition amount equal to the total wages the employee was deprived of. Because of the availability of liquidated damages, the employee can effectively recover TWICE the amount of the difference between what she was paid and what an employee of the opposite sex was paid.
- Interest, attorney fees and costs: The equal pay law also provides for recovery of interest on the deprived wages, plus attorney fees and court costs.
Protect Your Rights, Contact Our Orange County Office Today
If you believe you are the victim of a gender based wage disparity, you should consult a knowledgeable California employment lawyer as soon as possible. Give the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams a call today at 949-679-9909 for a free consultation. You can also contact us through the form below and we will respond promptly.