The California Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for members of both sexes for doing essentially the same work. The Act has been in effect for many years but recent amendments have strengthened it.

Formerly, the Equal Pay Act prohibited different pay for “equal” work. The amended law prohibits different pay for “substantially similar” work. “Substantially similar work” refers to work that is mostly similar in skill, effort, responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.

Skill refers to the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job. Effort refers to the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job. Responsibility refers to the degree of accountability or duties required in performing the job. Working conditions has been interpreted to mean the physical surroundings and hazards, which include consideration of the temperature, ventilation and exposure to fumes at the work sites being compared. The amended law also eliminates the requirement that the jobs being compared be located at the same establishment.

You may have a claim under the Act if you one or more person of the opposite sex is being paid more than you for substantially similar work even if the other person has a different job tittle. Your employer overcomes such a claim if it demonstrates a legitimate reason for the pay difference, such as seniority, merit, a system that measures production, and/or a “bona fide factor other than sex.” Examples of a “bona fide factor other than sex” include education, training or experience. The employer must also show that any such reason is not arbitrary, but job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Under the Act, employers may not prohibit employees from disclosing their wages, discussing the wages of others, or inquiring about others’ wages and prohibits retaliation on that basis. Retaliation against an employee who assists another employee with bringing claims under the Act is also expressly prohibited.

If you believe you are being unlawfully underpaid, you should consult a lawyer to determine potential remedies.

Bobby Shukla represents individuals in employment law matters. She can be reached at (415) 986-1338.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is generalized and not for purposes of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice regarding your particular circumstance.