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California Equal Pay Act

Last Updated: April 1, 2024

The current status of equal pay in the United States is harrowing: across a wide variety of industries, women and people of color are paid less than white men for similar work.In 1949, California introduced the Equal Pay Act. The Act contained stipulations to ensure that all California employees would be paid fairly.

The Equal Pay Act states, “No employer shall pay any individual in the employer’s employ at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs.” While that statement seems straightforward, many California employers continued to use loopholes to underpay employees based on their gender, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics.

Seventy years later, the problem still exists. In 2016, the LA Times reported on a comprehensive study of the gender pay gap. The study found that women were paid 80 cents for each dollar made by men for equal work. Race and ethnicity also played a role: Latina women were paid just 43 cents compared to each dollar earned by white men. Five years later,estimates put the gender pay gap at $0.82 for women for each dollar earned by men.It’s hard to believe that in 2023, the gender pay gap still exists. While we have yet to see the full data, the coronavirus pandemic may have made things worse.

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California Equal Pay Act Latest News - April 2024

  • April 1, 2024 - Esther Peterson: The Woman Behind the Equal Pay Act.
  • March 1, 2024 - Nike hit with lawsuit from four women who allege gender discrimination.
  • February 1, 2024 - Medsurant Health to Pay $80,000 to Settle Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Sex Discrimination Lawsuit.
  • January 1, 2024 - Women suing Disney over gender pay gap gain class certification.
  • December 1, 2023 - California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act into law. The law amends California Labor Code Sections 98.6, 112.5, and 1297.5, to create a presumption that retaliation has occurred if an employee is subjected to adverse employment actions within 90 days after engaging in protected activities covered by these sections.
  • November 1, 2023 - New California Law Makes It Easier for Employees to Establish Retaliation Claims.
  • October 1, 2023 - Effort to require public salary ranges advances on Beacon Hill.
  • July 1, 2023 - Signs of Progress on the Anniversary of Equal Pay Act and Challenges Remaining for Women in Labor Market.
  • June 1, 2023 - Labour claims that the gender pay gap between women and men in their 50s will not close until 2050.
  • May 1, 2023 - What is Pay Equity and How Are Pay Equity Audits Beneficial?
  • April 1, 2023 - The Biden-Harris Administration Promotes Gender Equity and Equal Pay through President Biden's Invest in America Agenda.
  • March 1, 2023 - Statement by President Joe Biden at the 14th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
  • February 1, 2023 - California's latest bill could be another step forward in college athlete pay. California was the catalyst for NIL money being made available to athletes. Now the state may take it one step further.
  • January 1, 2023 - Equal Pay to Women Team USA as Cantwell-Capito bill heads to president's desk.
  • December 1, 2022 - Salary posting is just the start for pay transparency.
  • November 16, 2022 - CA Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new pay transparency act that will require significant changes in how employers draft job postings and how they report pay data to the state.
  • October 1, 2022 - CA job seekers will see salary ranges on job postings soon, thanks to a new salary bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
  • September 1, 2022 - CA lawmakers approve landmark of over half a million fast food workers bill.
  • August 14, 2022 - Equal pay deal for U.S. women's soccer approved by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner. A $24 million settlement between U.S. women soccer players and the sport’s American governing body was given initial approval.
  • August 1, 2022 - The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) revealed it had engaged in a 3 year investigation of Tesla and found evidence of discrimination against black employees at the company’s Fremont, CA factory.
  • July 1, 2022 - The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) resolved a housing harassment complaint brought by a Vacaville tenant against her property
    management company.
  • June 1, 2022 - CA Supreme Court Rules Meal and Rest Break Charge Considered "Wages" Potentially Prompting Sanctions for Violations.
  • May 17, 2022 - CA legislators are pushing 2 bills that would require companies reporting more information about their internal and pay practices. The bills are opposed by business groups who claim that the data could be taken out of context.
  • May 1, 2022 - Companies must focus on pay equity in order to attract, retain and develop female workers because of the tight labor market and the exclusion of over a million women from the workforce due to the pandemic.
  • April 12, 2022 - Another former employee of Riot Games is suing the company over gender discrimination, along with additional allegations.
  • April 3, 20022 - U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - Equal Pay Compensation Discrimination Update: The Equal Pay Act stipulates that equal pay must be paid to men and women working in the same place. They do not have to be the same job, but must be substantially similar.
  • March 1, 2022 - The 2022‑23 Budget proposal of CalHR California Leads Proposal: Establish Equal Employment and Opportunity Academy (4 Positions).
  • February 1, 2022 - Office of Governor Gavin Newsom update - CA Signs Equal Pay Pledge. CA highlights investments, actions to advance pay equity.
  • January 1, 2022 - Riot Games agrees to $100,000,000 settlement and systemic reforms to resolve claims of workplace sex discrimination & harassment.
  • September 23, 2021 - California workers get additional 2 weeks paid sick for COVID-19
  • September 22, 2021 - CA limits use of productivity quotas by Amazon and other warehouse companies
California equal pay act

What Is the California Equal Pay Act?

Studies released in the mid-2010s, as well as the resulting anger they unleashed, forced California politicians’ hands. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act (SB 358). The bill, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, was described as the “toughest equal-pay measure in the nation.” The 2015 bill was designed to strengthen the 1949 EPA, with a particular focus on getting rid of loopholes that employers exploited for decades.

The 2015 bill, alongside later amendments, aimed to eliminate California pay discrimination in three ways: 

The language used for employment regulation would be more clear so that employers had less room to exploit loopholes. 

Employers would be obligated to keep better records of pay structures. 

Employers would be barredfrom retaliating or discriminating against employees who challenge pay disparity in their workplace.

Recent Amendments to the Equal Law Act

As with most laws and regulations, the Equal Pay Act is seen as imperfect by many campaigners and politicians. As such, the Act can be amended and extended. The Fair Pay Act signed by Governor Brown in 2015, for example, is an extension of the 1949 Equal Pay Act. Each year since, amendments have been added, coming into effect on January 1st of the following year.

The most recent amendment to the Equal Pay Act came into effect on January 1, 2021. The amendment requires private employers (with over 100 employees) to submit an annual pay data report, highlighting salaries and providing data on gender, race, ethnicity. Transparency is one of the key weapons in the battle for pay parity. Campaigners believe that amendments like these will encourage employers to pay fairly.

Timeline of California’s Equal Pay Laws

The basis of California’s Equal Pay Law was enshrined in the 1949 Equal Pay Act. In the mid-2010s, the EPA received a much-needed modernization through the Fair Pay Act. A brief timeline is shown below:

October 6th, 2015 – Governor Jerry Brown signs the Fair Pay Act into law.

January 1st, 2016 – Fair Pay Act comes into effect. Some key points:

  • Equal pay is awarded in cases of “substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.”
  • Employers with multiple locations are obliged to pay equal salaries for equal work regardless of where the employee was based.
  • Employers can no longer ban discussion of salaries if the purpose is to investigate fair pay.
  • Employers are required to keep wage records for three years.

January 1st, 2017 – Race and Ethnicity amendment added to Fair Pay Act.

January 1st, 2018 – Equal Pay Act was expanded to include public employers.

January 1st, 2019 – Amendment came into effect, employers can no longer justify pay differences between employees of the opposite sex (or different races or ethnicities) based on previous salaries.

January 1st, 2020 – Women on Boards amendment comes into effect, requiring representation of females on the boards of publicly traded companies.

September 30th, 2020 – Governor Gavin Newsom signs new pay reporting law, Senate Bill 973.

March 31st, 2021 – Senate Bill 973 comes into effect, requiring firms (with 100 employees) to file an Employer Information Report with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The report should detail pay structures, and any disparities based on race, ethnicity, or gender.

California’s Wage & Hour Laws

California has clear directives on wages and working times across the state. As of 2021, the hourly minimum wage for workers in California is $13 per hour if the business has 25 or fewer employees, and $14 per hour if the company has more than 25 employees. Overtime must be paid – at 1.5X the hourly rate – if the employee works over eight hours in a day or over 40 hours per week. If overtime exceeds 12 hours in one day, employees must receive twice the hourly rate. 

California employment law also covers meal and rest breaks. These depend on the length of the employee’s shift. A 30-minute meal break must be provided to employees working more than a five-hour shift, although employees can agree to waive this right if their shift is six hours or less. 

There are some exemptions to California’s wage laws, mostly, due to independent contracting work. An Uber driver or a freelance website designer, for example, might be considered an independent contractor, and will not be covered by the legal directives mentioned above.

Minimum Wage in California (Years 1916-2023)

YearNew Minimum Wage Per HourOld Minimum Wage Per HourAmount of Wage IncreasePercentage of Increase Over Previous Wage
2023$15.00$15.00$1.006.66%
2022$15.00$14.00$1.007.14%
2021$14.00$13.00$1.007.69%
2020$13.00$12.00$1.008.33%
2019$12.00$11.00$0.504.54%
2018$11.00$10.50$0.504.76%
2017$10.50$10.00$1.005%
2016$10.00$9.00$1.0011.1%
2014$9.00$8.00$1.0012.5%
2008$8.00$7.50$0.506.7%
2007$7.50$6.75$0.7511.1%
2002$6.75$6.25$0.508.00%
2001$6.25$5.75$0.508.70%
1998$5.75$5.15$0.6011.65%
1997$5.15$5.00$0.153.00%
1997$5.00$4.75$0.255.26%
1996$4.75$4.25$0.5011.76%
1988$4.25$3.35$0.9026.87%
1981$3.35$3.10$0.258.06%
1980$3.10$2.90$0.206.90%
1979$2.90$2.65$0.259.43%
1978$2.65$2.50$0.156.00%
1976$2.50$2.00$0.5025.00%
1974$2.00$1.65$0.3521.21%
1968$1.65$1.30$0.3526.92%
1964$1.30$1.25$0.054.00%
1963$1.25$1.00$0.2525.00%
1957$1.00$0.75$0.2533.33%
1952$0.75$0.65$0.1015.38%
1947$0.65$0.45$0.2044.44%
1943$0.45$0.33$0.1236.36%
1920$0.33$0.28$0.0517.86%
1919$0.28$0.21$0.0733.33%
1918$0.21$0.16$0.0531.25%
1916$0.16---

 

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California Equal Opportunity Employment Laws

The primary law governing equal opportunity employment in California falls under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) of 1959. Other laws and regulations, including federal laws and the previously mentioned Equal Pay Act, intertwine with FEHA, but the latter remains the primary legal landing point. 

FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability (whether mental or physical), and pregnancy. These groups are protected classes/categories. Contained within FEHA is the right for the individual to pursue punitive damages, i.e., financial compensation, when an employer has discriminated against them, and they fall into one of these protected classes. If you are pursuing an unfair gender pay lawsuit, some of your legal rights will ultimately come from FEHA.

California Gender Equality Law

In recent years, California has moved to address several issues regarding gender equality in the workplaces. The state has released legal provisions that govern equality from the top to bottom of organizations. For example, in 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Women On Boards, a Senate Bill that requires publicly traded companies with all-male directors’ boards to hire at least one female director. This law came into effect on January 1st, 2020. In 2021, the law was updated to require at least two females have seats on boards with a total of five members. Quotas, as these requirements are called, are not without controversy.However, they are seen by gender equality campaigners to get fair representation on corporate boards.

Through all strata of the workplace, Californians are protected by gender equality laws – or at least they should be. The laws in California are sometimes cited as being more complicated than those in other states, but California’s laws are also more comprehensive, offering women more rights and legal recourse than most states. If you believe you’ve been unfairly compensated due to your gender, you should speak to a gender equality attorney for advice on how to pursue an equal pay lawsuit in California.

California Equal Pay Act Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time that can elapse before legal proceedings are filed. In short, if too much time has elapsed from the time the offense was committed, then you might not be able to file a lawsuit. If you are unclear on your rights under the statute of limitations, it’s important to contact a pay equality law firm. When it comes to the gender pay equality statute of limitations in California, the law is clear: You have two years from the date of the violation to file the case; and three years to file if the discrimination was willful on the part of the employer. For clarity, the violation date usually refers to the date of the paycheck, or paychecks, in question.

Are You Being Paid Unfairly? How to Tell

It can be hard to tell whether you’re being underpaid for your work, especially if your company does not have a culture in which salaries are openly discussed. If you’re not sure whether you’re being compensated fairly for your work, there are a few ways that you can begin to learn more: 

  • Research average pay rates for your job online: Take a look at online job postings for roles similar to yours, and note whether you’re being paid within a comparable salary range. 
  • Pay attention to your coworkers’ benefits: If you notice that others in a similar role with similar responsibilities and a comparable amount of time at the company have more PTO than you, or are permitted to have a more flexible schedule, this can indicate that you aren’t being compensated fairly. 
  • Consider your last salary increase: If you haven’t received a salary increase since you started your job (and you’ve been in your position for a significant amount of time), there’s a good chance you aren’t being paid fairly. 
  • Consider your company’s turnover rate: If you’ve noticed that new employees tend to leave your company quickly, there’s a good chance that they feel they aren’t being adequately compensated for their time. 

If you find information that leads you to believe you may not be receiving the same pay as your coworkers who are performing similar work, it’s important to reach out to a lawyer to learn more about whether you deserve financial compensation. 

California Equal Pay Act Cases

While some battles have been won over equal pay in recent years, there is still much work to be done. Thousands of women across California are pursuing gender pay lawsuits against California companies that are in violation of the state’s equal pay laws. 

In 2020, three women successfully had a class-action equal pay lawsuit certified by a judge. The women now represent thousands of female Oracle Corp employees. The class action suit accuses Oracle of underpaying women who were performing the same job as men at the technology firm. In 2021, The State of California is also pursuing a case against Riot Games – publisher of the League of Legends video game – for gender pay discrimination, among other workplace violations.

Oracle and Riot Games are two companies with massive global reach. These equal pay discrimination cases have created widespread controversy. Despite arguments from some, there are gender discrimination issues across every industry in California. No matter your industry, and no matter your pay grade, equal pay law exists to protect you. If you’re a woman who believes you are being paid less than a male colleague for, as the law states, “substantially similar work,” you should consider contacting a qualified employment lawyer to learn whether you may be eligible for compensation.

California Equal Pay Act FAQs

While some battles have been won over equal pay in recent years, there is still much work to be done. Thousands of women across California are pursuing gender pay lawsuits against California companies that are in violation of the state’s equal pay laws. 

In 2020, three women successfully had a class-action equal pay lawsuit certified by a judge. The women now represent thousands of female Oracle Corp employees. The class action suit accuses Oracle of underpaying women who were performing the same job as men at the technology firm. In 2021, The State of California is also pursuing a case against Riot Games – publisher of the League of Legends video game – for gender pay discrimination, among other workplace violations.

Oracle and Riot Games are two companies with massive global reach. These equal pay discrimination cases have created widespread controversy. Despite arguments from some, there are gender discrimination issues across every industry in California. No matter your industry, and no matter your pay grade, equal pay law exists to protect you. If you’re a woman who believes you are being paid less than a male colleague for, as the law states, “substantially similar work,” you should consider contacting a qualified employment lawyer to learn whether you may be eligible for compensation.

Do You Qualify For Compensation?

If you think your employer may have violated the California Equal Pay Act, it’s important that you reach out to a qualified attorney to get the support that you need. You may be entitled to financial compensation from your employer. 

You don’t have to figure this out alone. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation. If it’s likely that you qualify for compensation, we’ll connect you with California Equal Pay Act lawyers who can help you move forward with your case. 

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© Copyright Jazz Media Ltd. 2024. All rights reserved

About us

We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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