The California Equal Pay Act has been in place for many years and it might have gone unnoticed to some that there was a strengthening of the law at the start of 2016 with the Fair Pay Act. It does the following —
- requires an employee who is performing work that is viewed as “substantially similar” to receive equal pay,
- it eliminates that workers’ have their work compared based on working at the same establishment or not
- ensures that factors the employer uses are reasonably applied
- states that retaliation is illegal when complaining about not being paid the same as the opposite sex
- extends the amount of time employers must keep records of wages and other employment information from two years to three years
The term “substantially similar work” might be confusing to some. What it means is that if the work is considered similar in its responsibility, skill and effort while working in similar conditions as a person of the opposite sex, it will require equal pay. Skill is in reference to the person’s ability, knowledge and experience at doing the job. Effort is in reference to the exertion — mental or physical — that must be expended. Responsibility means how accountable the person is when doing the job. For working conditions, it can mean climate, circumstances and possible hazards.
The new law is different from the old law in that there is no longer the requirement that the jobs that are being compared by located in the same establishment. It has replaced the word “equal” with “substantially similar.” It is now harder for an employer to be justified in not paying men and women equally. It is more specific regarding protections workers have for being retaliated against and filing a claim. And it does not allow employers to prohibit an employee from discussing wages of others or asking about wages of others.
Since wage laws can be complicated and many might not even know about the changes and how they affect them, there is the possibility that there are factions of the workforce who do not even know they are subjected to various violations. When there is a belief that the wage and hour law is being violated in any context, it could be the basis for a legal filing. Speaking to a legal professional experienced in California wage laws can help to get a case started.
Source: dir.ca.gov, “California Equal Pay Act: Frequently Asked Questions,” accessed on April 19, 2016