The California Equal Pay Act has long prohibited employers from paying employees less than other employees of the opposite sex for equal work. However, many employees continue to experience wage disparity between genders and ethnicities.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch decided to lead by example for other male actors by only doing films for which he and his female co-stars are paid equally. Many directors and actors commended Cumberbatch for his stance, but the wage gap in Hollywood remains an ongoing problem.
The reality is that all industries struggle with wage gaps, and it is crucial for employees in California to understand the Equal Pay Act and how it protects them.
Equal pay is required for employees who perform substantially similar work
"Similar work" is a key phrase in California's legislation regarding equal pay. If you perform work at your job that is substantially similar to work performed by other employees, equal pay is required for you and those employees.
When defining "similar work," it's necessary to consider the skills needed for the position, the effort required for daily tasks, the education requirements, and the responsibilities the job entails. Employers cannot justify smaller salaries or lower wages on the basis of "meaningless differences" between positions.
Equal pay covers more than gender
In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act, which identifies additional protected classes, such as race and ethnicity, with regard to equal pay. That means an employer is prohibited from paying its employees less than other employees of the opposite sex or another race for similar work.
Workplace retaliation is illegal
Some employees do not come forward about unequal pay because they fear retaliation from the employer. Fortunately, the California Fair Pay Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who ask about others' wages.
If you have questions about any of these matters, an experienced employment law attorney can answer your questions and explain your options.