Employers in California – More Stringent Equal Pay Laws Coming in 2016

There has been a lot of political talk lately about the pay gap between male and female workers, and California is one of the more progressive states when it comes to tackling this issue. In October, Governor Jerry Brown took steps to help close that gap in California by signing S.B. 358, which will revise the existing version of the California Fair Pay Act, specifically Cal. Labor Code §1197.5.

The existing law prohibits an employer from paying male and female workers in the same establishment at different wage rates for equal work requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility. Exceptions exist under the current law, for seniority, merit, quality and quantity of work, or some other bona fide factor other than the sex of the worker. At present, it is a misdemeanor offense to pay workers of opposite sex differently in violation of the law.

Taking effect on January 1, 2016, the law will be strengthened and will incorporate changes, such as:

  • Employees are permitted to discuss their own wages, and the wages of others, openly. These changes are designed to promote pay transparency.
  • Instead of prohibiting wage differentials between workers of the opposite sex in the same establishment, the new law will prohibit paying workers of the opposite sex differently for substantially similar work, taking into consideration skill, effort, and responsibility associated with the work.
  • If there is a wage differential between workers of the opposite sex, the burden is on the employer to affirmatively demonstrate why the wage differential exists, based on seniority, merit, quality and quantity of work, or some other bona fide factor other than the sex of the worker. These factors must be applied reasonably, and must account for the whole differential. This new provision will place a higher burden on employers who are trying to justify a pay gap between similarly situated employees of different sex.
  • Employers are prohibited from discharging, discriminating against, or retaliating against workers who seek action under the new provisions of the new law, and any employee who is discharged, discriminated against, or suffers retaliation by their employer for seeking action under the provisions of the new law will be eligible to recover lost wages (including interest and lost benefits), may seek reinstatement or other suitable equitable relief. This change makes it easier for employees to establish a prima facie case against their employer.
  • Employers are required to retain records concerning employees’ wages and wage rates for a period of three years, as opposed to the current two years.

What Can Employers Do In Preparation For This Change?

The new law is meant to provide additional protections to employees by placing new burdens on employers. Worker’s rights are important, and it is important that business owners and employers be appraised of the new changes that will be taking effect in the new year concerning employee wages. Any business who has California employees will be subject to these new requirements.

Employers should get ready for this change by evaluating employees’ payment structure and assessing whether there is any potential for problems to arise. Employers have a few months before the law takes effect, in which they can take steps to correct or mitigate any potential employee pay issues. Analyzing any wage differentials and assessing whether any reasonable factors exist that warrants the differential in employee’s pay are just a couple of important steps an employer should be taking at this time. Employers can also advise management of the changes in the law, especially the provisions concerning workers’ new ability to openly discuss wages.

For more information on the ramifications of this legal update, or should you need advisement for any employment-related matter, contact Spotora and Associates, PC today and to speak with a senior level Los Angeles business attorney.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 3:36 pm and is filed under Business & Corporate Law, California Law, Employment Law. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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