California’s Equal Pay Act states that it is illegal for employers to pay employees of opposite sex, race, and ethnicities differently if they have equal work. Equal work is defined as employees who have the same skill set, demonstrate the same effort, and have similar responsibilities at the workplace. California’s Equal Pay Act also protects employees from retaliation by their employer if the employee decides to file a claim regarding the employer’s engagement in illegal and unequal pay based on the sex, race, or ethnicity of the employee.
In order for an employee to file an Equal Pay Act claim, the employee must satisfy specific requirements. The first requirement is that the file must be made within two years of the illegal action. However, if the violation was deliberate, then the employee has up to three years to file an Equal Pay Act claim. The second requirement is that the claim must be made with the Labor Commissioner’s Office or with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The third requirement is that the employee must be able to prove that there is unfairness in wages merely due to the employee’s sex, race, and/or ethnicity. It is the employer’s burden to prove that there was a legitimate reason for the difference in wages or salary amounts between employees. An example of a legitimate reason that an employer could have is that the employees have different salaries not because of their sex, race, or ethnicity, but because of seniority. Specifically, the employer could argue that the employee with the higher salary pay has been working at the workplace for a longer period of time, even though both employees may have the same skill set and dedication to working for the company.
There are some tips that may strengthen an employee’s California Equal Pay Act case. One tip would be for the employee to request access to all their records in regards to the employee’s wages and rates. Under the Equal Pay Act, the employer must comply with this request and provide all the necessary documents and information to the employee. Another suggestion that may strengthen an employee’s case would be for the employee to ask his or her employer the salary rates of their co-employees. If the employer decides to provide the employee with such information, then the employee could show evidence of differences in salaries. However, the employer is not obligated to provide such information when requested. Thus, it is up to the employer to decide whether or not he or she wants to share this information. It is also important to note that the employer cannot retaliate against the employee if the employee asks for the wages of his or her co-employees. The employee is allowed to request access as this right is protected under the Equal Pay Act. Additionally, if the employee files an Equal Pay Act claim, the employer is not allowed to retaliate against the employee by performing any sort of adverse employment action. In fact, if the employer does retaliate against the employee, then the employee could also file a retaliation claim and be compensated for any damages imposed by the employer (California Equal Pay Act).