EQUAL PAY: GENDER AND RACIAL WAGE GAP

THE GENDER AND RACIAL EQUAL PAY GAP

It is illegal in California for employers to pay women and people of color less than they pay other employees for the same work.  Recent statistics show that women earn an average of 84 cents to every dollar a man earns.  The wage gap exists for African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color, with Latina women earning only 44 cents for every dollar a white male earns.  The law provides a remedy for people who are don’t receive the same pay for similar work as a way to counteract these prevailing disparities.  Employees can recover the difference in wages through an individual or class action lawsuit against companies that violate California’s equal pay laws.

YOUR LEGAL RIGHT TO BE PAID EQUALLY

California’s fair and equal pay laws protect applicants and employees in many different ways:

  • Equal pay is required for employees who perform “substantially similar work.”  This means that women or people of color in one job position must be paid the same as men or other individuals in a different job if the two positions require similar skills, effort and responsibilities.
  • If there is a wage gap, employers must prove to the court that the difference is not in fact based on gender or race and that there is a lawful explanation for the wage gap.
  • It is illegal for California employers to retaliate against employees that complain or ask for a raise based on their belief that a wage gap exists at their job.
  • Employers cannot bar employees from talking about how much money they make or inquiring about another person’s wages.

A pay system that compensates employees differently based on a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, sex, national origin or some other quality, may also serve as a basis for an unlawful employment discrimination lawsuit.  Retaliation laws, wrongful termination and LGBTQ employment rights are also implicated if an individual is fired for asserting his or her right to pay equity in the workplace.

CALIFORNIA’S SALARY HISTORY BAN

As part of California’s commitment to pay equity, companies cannot ask individuals applying for a job about their salary history or hourly rate at a prior job.  During the application process, applicants can ask the company for a pay scale for the position so that they are aware of the maximum and minimum amount of money that can be earned for the particular job.  Employers are required to give applicants the pay scale, which helps the applicant negotiate his or her salary.

DAMAGES FOR PAY EQUITY VIOLATIONS

If a company fails to comply with California’s fair and equal pay laws, the employee can recover the difference in wages, interest, liquidated damages (double pay) and attorney’s fees and costs:

  • Payment of the difference in wages
  • Interest on the amount owed
  • Waiting time penalties (up to 30 times the amount of unpaid wages owed)
  • Wage statement penalties (up to $4,000 per employee)
  • Liquidated damages (double pay)
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs

FERRARO EMPLOYMENT LAW WILL ENFORCE YOUR PAY EQUITY RIGHTS

If you are paid less than men or people of another race or ethnicity, chances are you are not the only person at your work who is affected by the unlawful policy.  We can help you negotiate a raise, settle your case or file a legal claim on behalf of yourself or your coworkers.  Contact us today for a free case assessment with Nicholas J. Ferraro.