Late last month, California’s state Assembly approved legislation that seeks to close the wage gap between women and men. The measure may be the strongest equal pay protection in the U.S.
- The bill would allow female employees to challenge instances of pay discrimination based on: wages that the company pays to other employees at different locations.
- wages the company pays to other employees who do substantially similar work.
For example, a female administrative assistant could challenge higher wages paid to a male receptionist, because they do similar work despite difference job titles. Companies would have to prove that differences in wages are based on merit, seniority, , or factors other than sex that are a legitimate business necessity.
Companies are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who discuss pay at work. The bill applies to both the public and private sectors. The bill was approved on a 66-2 vote. It will return to the Senate for a final vote, and will then go to Governor Jerry Brown, who has promised to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. The bill has bipartisan support, and even the California Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the measure. However, not everyone is happy with the bill. The California chapter of the National Organization for Women opposes the bill because it does not include others who face racial discrimination or disability discrimination. It also does not contain provisions for non-white men, who also face pay discrimination.
On average, California women are paid 84 cents for every dollar that men were paid in 2013. For minority women, the statistics are even more troubling. Latinas in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white male makes. Black women are paid only 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Female full-time workers in California collectively make about $33 billion less each year than male full-time workers.
One huge benefit this bill offers is that it tries to eliminate the secrecy surrounding wages. Secrecy about how much a person is being paid usually benefits the employer, and contributes a great deal to the gender pay gap. If a female employee is unable to find out what male employees in similar positions are being paid, she will not know if she is being discriminated against because of her gender.
If the bill becomes law it will be enforced by the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Employees can file complaints with the agency, which will be investigated confidentially. If a claim is validated, the agency will request wages on the employee’s behalf. If the employer refuses to pay, the agency can file a legal action. Under the bill, employees can also directly sue their employer through the California court system.
It is unfortunate that even today, women in many industries are not being paid the same as men who do similar work. Gender discrimination cases can be tricky to prove, because an employer can often provide a reason, even if it’s not legitimate, for the pay disparity. In addition, it can be difficult for female employees to find out what their colleagues are being paid.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that female employees who do similar jobs should be paid the same as men who are working for the same company. If they aren’t, gender discrimination may be to blame. Call Micha Star Liberty at Liberty Law, Oakland sexual discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 to learn more about your legal options if you are being discriminated against at work. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case.