Equal Pay (Gender, Race and Ethnicity)
In 2015, California enacted the Fair Pay Act protecting women from unequal pay. Since that time, this law has been expanded to protect individuals from unequal pay based on race and ethnicity. The state law is found at Labor Code §1197.5. The law requires employers to pay equal wages for equal work, regardless of the employee’s gender, race or ethnicity. Civil remedies include lost wages and interest plus liquidated damages equal to the lost wages and interest, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Criminal penalties are available for a willful violation.
Under the state law, it is basically illegal for an employer to pay women and people of color less than they pay other employees who perform “substantially similar” work which refers to work that is mostly similar in skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions.
There are some exceptions to this rule that allow differences in wages if based on a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of work production, or another “bona fide” reason other than sex, race or national origin.
There is a comparable law under federal law, but it only applies to unequal pay based on gender. It is called The Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 USC§206(d) and requires the employer to pay equal wages for equal work, regardless of gender. Civil remedies include lost wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. Criminal penalties are available for willful violations.
We have successfully negotiated and litigated cases under the California law and believe strongly in “equal pay for equal work” without regard to discriminatory factors.