Bill Enacted to Ensure Equal Pay for Woman in the Workplace October 6, 2015

On October 6, 2015, California Governor Edmund Brown Jr. signed the California Fair Pay Act, a monumental bill (SB-358) unanimously approved by the California Senate, that will strengthen existing California law, already prohibiting an employer from compensating a woman less than a man for the same job position. Now, upon the passage and signing of the Fair Pay Act, female employees will be further protected as the new law will prohibit an employer from compensating a woman less than a man, not just for the same job position, but when the woman performs “substantially similar work” as her male counterpart. Hence, as noted by California State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, the architect of the Fair Pay Act, a hypothetical employer owning a hotel will now be required to compensate a female hotel maid, who is tasked to clean hotel rooms, equally as a male janitor, who is tasked to clean the hotel lobby and conference room.

In addition, under this new law, employers will also be prohibited from retaliating against female employees, seeking to discuss about their wages, including but not limited to, how their wages compare with their male co-workers. Moreover, the Fair Pay Act will also extend the requirement for employers in keeping payroll and personnel records of employees from two to three years. Finally, pursuant to this law, employers, in order to successfully defend against wage discrimination claims, will now be required to affirmatively demonstrate that any wage difference is based upon one more of the following factors such as (1) seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (4) a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience, which is consistent with the employer’s “business necessity.” However, employees could overcome the bona fide factor defense if they can demonstrate that an alternative business practice exists that serves the same business purpose but doesn’t produce the same wage differential result.

The Fair Pay Act is one of the first legislation of its kind in taking a larger step in attempting to eliminate the gender wage gap in California. If you or you know anyone who has experienced wage discrimination on the basis of gender, please contact Lara & Luna, APC to obtain representation.