Navigating the process of filing an Equal Pay Act (EPA) claim can be a complex undertaking, but with the right frame of reference, you can better ensure that your rights are protected.
Before filing a claim, affected employees should have sufficient evidence of wage disparities. Therefore, you should document instances of unequal pay, noting job responsibilities, qualifications and any relevant conversations or communications.
What is the Equal Pay Act?
The Equal Pay Act is legislation designed to eliminate gender, race or ethnicity based wage disparities. In California, it mandates employers to pay employees of one gender the same as employees of the opposite gender for substantially similar work.
The primary provisions of the Equal Pay Act include:
- Equal work, equal pay: The law mandates equal pay for employees performing substantially similar work, irrespective of gender.
- Comparison of jobs: Jobs are considered substantially similar when they require similar skill, effort and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions.
- Exceptions: Differences in pay are allowed based on merit, seniority, quantity or quality of production or other bona fide factors unrelated to gender.
If you believe you have grounds upon which to file an EPA claim, these key EPA provisions can provide guidance on the best course of action to help protect your rights.
California is one of the first states in the nation to enact pay transparency laws. Employers in California face a number of regulations that protect employees’ ability to discuss wages and working conditions. For example, California transparency laws provide
- The right for employees to discuss pay
- Employers cannot require an employee to sign any agreement that prohibits the employee from disclosing working conditions
- Employers need to disclose the pay scale for any open position to any applicant
- Employers may not ask applicants about prior salary history
Filing an Equal Pay Act Claim in California
The first step is contacting the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) with a compilation of all pertinent documents that prove the wage disparities you’re raising concerns about.
Upon receiving a complaint, the DLSE will conduct an investigation. This may involve interviews, review of employment records and analysis of relevant factors. Once all investigations are concluded, a hearing may be scheduled before the DLSE, where both parties may present evidence. After this, a hearing officer makes a determination.
Filing an Equal Pay Act claim demands attention to detail, persistence and knowledge of the legal landscape. By understanding the intricacies of the EPA, following the prescribed steps and seeking legal counsel, employees can assert their rights and work towards achieving equal pay in the workplace.