It is our firm’s outlook that the second half of 2016 will expose many more equal pay violations in the workplace both nationally and in California. One of the reasons for that is earlier this June the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) presented new guidance documents addressing the equal employment opportunity rights of women in the workplace. These documents included (1) Equal Pay and the EEOC’s Proposal to Collect Pay Data, (2) Legal Rights for Pregnant Workers under Federal Law, and (3) Helping Patients Deal with Pregnancy-Related Conditions and Restrictions at Work. It is also my belief that as more cases are brought to light, and women are more aware of the workplace biases, there will be an exponential growth in Equal Pay Act (and in California the Fair Pay Act) litigation.
The EEOC summit, which was live-streamed, focused on issues affecting women at work. Accordingly, we tuned in as there has been a noticeable increase in harassment of, and discrimination to, women in the California workplace. The most important guidance from the EEOC involved comments on the Equal Pay Act (or Fair Pay Act in California) and Pregnancy Discrimination. By staying up to date on these regulatory releases as well as the constant flow of new cases in our California courts, we are able to relay our views and knowledge on the topic more clearly, and in greater breadth to our clients.
First, the ‘Equal Pay and the EEOC’s Proposal to Collect Pay Data’ guidance document focused on the reality that although efforts have been placed to thwart disparities, there is still a prevalence of unlawful discrimination against women in the workplace. This is even after more than five decades since the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Not only are women being paid lower wages, they are also prone to receive lower benefits such as holiday and vacation, stock options and profit-sharing, bonuses and overtime pay.
Second, the EEOC’s ‘Legal Rights for Pregnant Workers under Federal Law’ guidance document reminded the participants that employers may not discriminate or harass women who are pregnant or may become pregnant as long as the employer has 15 or more workers. In California, as of April 1, 2016, the anti-discrimination law is even stricter in that the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) applies to more employers as the new regulations re-define what it means to have five employees. For example, out of state employees count towards the five employee threshold. In addition, if a company has employees on medical leave they now count these employees toward the five employee requirement for FEHA to apply. If women cannot perform their work due to their pregnancy, they may be entitled to accommodations such as different work schedules, working conditions, and the ability to work from home. At some point though, women may be accommodated by receiving unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (or the California Family Rights Act, or Pregnancy Disability Leave). See these other blogs for more FMLA and CFRA examples.
Finally, the third guidance document ‘Helping Patients Deal with Pregnancy-Related Conditions and Restrictions at Work’ provided helpful advice to health providers on how to provide options to women whose pregnancy affected their work. Mostly, it was information on how women can continue to work under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is our assessment that the EEOC guidance and the increase in case law interpreting the Fair Pay Act will allow more women in the workplace to speak up and the wage gap to narrow.
If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to discrimination or retaliation in the workplace (especially related to equal pay or pregnancy leave), prompt action to preserve your rights is vital since the statute of limitation is short. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.