Equal Pay in the News

Wage disparities between men and women continue to be a significant problem even today. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that female full-time wage and salary workers only made 88% of what their male counterparts made. (https://www.bls.gov/regions/west/news-release/womensearnings_california.htm)  So, for every $100 a man earns, his female counterpart only earns $88. Recently, two tech giants have been in the news because female employees filed lawsuits for gender-pay discrimination.

 In recent years there have been several legislative changes strengthening the equal pay law in California. The California Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer for paying a male employee more than a female employee “for substantially similar work.” Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5. The California Equal Pay Act applies to all California employers, regardless of the size of the employer.  The California Equal Pay Act also prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for invoking rights provided by the law or helping another person invoke her rights under the law.

 On January 1, 2017, the Fair Pay Act was expanded to address compensation disparities between members of one race or ethnicity and those of another race or ethnicity. For example, women of color are often paid less than white women, and the changes to the law allow women of color to make a claim where this occurs. See Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5(b)

 Employers often justify a disparity in salaries by claiming that they based the employees’ salaries on what the employees made at their prior jobs. Changes to the law in 2017 now explicitly prohibit an employer from justifying an unlawful difference in pay on prior salary alone. Reliance on an employee’s prior salary alone oftentimes perpetuates a life-long salary disparity. By prohibiting an employee from relying on prior salary alone, the law works to break the cycle of wage disparity.

 One week ago Governor Brown signed a bill, which will prohibit an employer from relying on an applicant’s prior salaries to determine whether to offer the applicant a job, and how much to pay the applicant. In addition, the bill will require employers to disclose the position’s pay scale if a job applicant requests that information. You can view a copy of the bill here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB168  This is a step in the right direction for equal pay in California!

 If you believe that you have been subject to wage discrimination, contact Siegel LeWitter Malkani today.

Jean Krasilnikoff

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