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How does California enforce protections for equal pay?

In California, there is a law called the California Equal Pay Act. This law is designed to stop employers from paying people less based on their gender. Although the best case scenario is that all employers will adhere to the law and pay everyone fairly, it is a sad fact that there will still be violations and acts of workplace discrimination that occur. In order to strengthen this law, a new law signed by the governor in October of 2015 called the California Fair Play Act was meant to bolster the California Equal Pay Act. Those who might have faced violations of the new law should be aware of its tenets.

The new law strengthens the old law in several different ways. There is a requirement that employees who are performing work that is considered "substantially similar" when it is perceived as a composite of responsibility, effort and skill will receive equal pay. There must be an elimination of employees having their work compared based on being employed at the same establishment. Employers can no longer have an easy path to defend their actions by claiming that there were factors other than gender that went into the decision on how much employees are paid.

If there are legitimate factors that go into the pay, the employer must apply them reasonably and account for the difference in pay. It must be explicitly stated that it is illegal for there to be retaliatory behaviors against employees who seek to have the law enforced. Employees cannot be prohibited from asking about or talking about wages earned by co-workers. The number of years that an employer must maintain wage records and other records related to employment was extended from two to three years.

There are many instances in which an employee is not aware of the laws that are meant to ensure equality in the workplace and provide other protections. If there is a belief that an employee has been discriminated against when receiving their wages due to gender, it could be the basis for a lawsuit to be compensated.

Source: dir.ca.gov, "California Equal Pay Act," accessed on May 10, 2016

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