Two recent additions to the California Fair Pay Act just went into effect on January 1, 2017. The CFPA was enacted to help make pay across gender lines more fair. The law prevents an employer from paying an employee wages that differ from what employees of the opposite sex earn – when skill, effort, and responsibility are factored in – and as long as the work conditions are similar. Even before the new amendments, the law signed by Governor Jerry Brown was one of the more wide-ranging equal pay laws in the United States.
The two amendments add the two following types of coverage:
- Differences in pay can now not be based on race or ethnicity – in addition to gender. As with gender, workers of a different race or ethnicity should be paid the same wages for similar work unless one or more of the following conditions apply:
- The employer has a seniority system in place. Generally, this type of system favors workers who have been with the company the longest.
- A system based on merit
- A procedure where work is based on quantity such as piece-mail work or worked based on quality such as artistic work
- A valid bona fide factor such as the worker’s education or training. The difference in wages must logically relate to the valid factor
- Prior wage salary history can’t be the sole reason for disparity in pay. The new amendment recognizes that many workers were paid less money in the past because of their gender, race, or ethnicity. The new amendment is meant to address that injustice. The language is that “prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.”
The second amendment to the CFPA does allow the employer to ask about the employee’s prior salary history – it just can’t be then used to justify the pay differential.
Violations of either amendment or any part of the CFPA can be brought before an appropriate agency or in court. At Stephen Danz & Associates, we have the experience to prove violations of the Act and to demand all the damages that apply. Damages includes the difference in pay between what should have been paid and what was paid – plus interest, liquidated damages, and legal fees.