California women will now enjoy the most specific laws in the United States aimed at requiring equal pay for equal work while concurrently fighting employers in discrimination claims. With the signing of SB 358 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Conditions of employment: gender wage differential- the state of California’s wage laws are now the toughest in the country.
Existing law regulates the payment of compensation to employees by employers and prohibits an employer from conditioning employment on requiring an employee to refrain from disclosing the amount of his or her wages, signing a waiver of the right to disclose the amount of those wages, or discriminating against an employee for making such a disclosure. See California Labor Code § 232.
Existing law generally prohibits an employer from paying an employee at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. Existing law establishes exceptions to that prohibition where the payment is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any bona fide factor other than sex. Existing law makes it a misdemeanor for an employer or other person acting either individually or as an officer, agent, or employee of another person to pay or cause to be paid to any employee a wage less than the rate paid to an employee of the opposite sex as required by these provisions, or who reduces the wages of any employee in order to comply with these provisions.
This bill would revise that prohibition to eliminate the requirement that the wage differential be within the same establishment, and instead would prohibit an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than those paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, as specified. The bill would revise and recast the exceptions to require the employer to affirmatively demonstrate that a wage differential is based upon one or more specified factors, including a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor other than sex, as specified. The bill would also require the employer to demonstrate that each factor relied upon is applied reasonably, and that the one or more factors relied upon account for the entire differential, which will now require companies to justify the wage difference – if there is one. The bill would prohibit an employer from discharging, or in any manner discriminating or retaliating against, any employee by reason of any action taken by the employee to invoke or assist in any manner the enforcement of these provisions, basically protecting employees to make wage differential complaints under this law. The bill would authorize an employee who has been discharged or discriminated or retaliated against, in the terms and conditions of his or her employment because the employee engaged in any conduct delineated in these provisions, to recover in a civil action reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer, including interest thereon, as well as appropriate equitable relief. The bill would prohibit an employer from prohibiting an employee from disclosing the employee’s own wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise his or her rights under these provisions. The bill would also increase the duration of employer recordkeeping requirements from 2 years to 3 years. By changing the definition of a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Chamber of Commerce even supported late amendments to the law. “Equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, should not be an issue in California,” Allan Zaremberg, the chamber’s president, said in a statement. The new law provides “guidance to employers to determine appropriate wages for non-gender-related reasons that allow employers to effectively manage their workforce.”
For a full test of the bill, please see http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/sen/sb_0351-0400/sb_358_bill_20150831_enrolled.pdf
If you are an employee who is paid unequally for work under this law, owed wages, overtime, expenses, or seeking to enforce your rights under the California Labor Code, please feel free to contact Richard E. Quintilone II Esq at Quintilone & Associates email [email protected] or call 949-458-9675.