California’s Equal Pay Act: What To Do if You’re Not Being Paid Equally

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

California’s Equal Pay Act is a groundbreaking piece of legislation designed to help combat wage discrimination across various industries.

In essence, this act requires employers to pay employees the same rate of compensation, regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity, when they are performing substantially similar work that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility:

Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees wage rates that are less than what it pays employees of the opposite sex, or of another race, or of another ethnicity for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions….

Skill refers to the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job. Effort refers to the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job. Responsibility refers to the degree of accountability or duties required in performing the job.”

While this is intended to eliminate unlawful wage disparities, these issues still unfortunately exist in the workplace. It’s helpful to understand what to do if this law is being violated.

Know What You Have To Prove Under The Law

When bringing a claim against your employer for violating this act, the burden of proof initially lies with the employee under California’s Equal Pay Act. The employee must establish a prima facie case by demonstrating, substantively and factually, that they receive less pay for performing work that is substantially similar in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility to someone of the opposite sex or different race or ethnicity.

Once an employee has established this initial case, it becomes the employer’s responsibility to prove that their reason(s) are lawful according to the law.

Gather Evidence Required To Prove Your Claim

Presenting evidence is an integral part of making a successful claim under the California Equal Pay Act. Here are some key pieces that can strengthen your case:

Compensation Records

Detailed data or records outlining wages paid to all employees can serve as critical evidence in demonstrating discrepancies between what you’re earning compared to others performing substantially similar work.

Documentation Related to Job Descriptions/Duties 

You should acquire accurate written job descriptions and a list of relevant qualifications required for each job. These documents help illuminate whether two roles are substantially similar in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility.

Actual Role Expectations 

In some cases, the description on paper may not precisely reflect what an employee does in reality. Employees’ actual duties or responsibilities can serve as substantial evidence when determining pay disparities.

Other Proof Indicating Discrimination

Comments made by managers or coworkers, specific instances of differential treatment, or any records hinting towards a pattern of unlawful discrimination can serve as strong evidence. 

It’s important to note that not every discrepancy in pay rates necessarily violates California’s equal pay law. To determine if you’re experiencing discrimination, working with an attorney is critical.

Contact an Attorney As Soon As Possible

If you believe that you are a victim of pay discrimination, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Our Orange County employment lawyers can assemble critical evidence supporting your claim, interpret any relevant laws or court decisions applicable to the case, and represent you during negotiations or court proceedings.

For help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.