What is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act an employers from paying their workers less than employees of the opposite sex for similar or identical work.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call (888) 600-8654

Have a quick question? I answered nearly 1500 FAQs.

FAQs: Table of Content

Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for employees of all genders who perform “substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.

There are two Equal Pay Act: 1) Equal Pay Act under Federal Law, and 2) California Equal Pay Act. Both Equal Pact Act laws are the same. Under the Equal Pay Act, the federal government and the state of California show a strong public policy favoring employees. The Equal Pay Act requires employers to provide equal pay for all workers regardless of gender, race, minorities, sexual orientation, sexual identification, gays, lesbians, or transgender. The laws are California Labor Code 1197.5 and Labor Code section 432.3.

The California Equal Pay Act (herein “Equal Pay Acts”) has been on the books for several decades. This law has ensured that employees get paid equally for the same work. This is true regardless of what gender they may be. This law was reinforced by the California Fair Pay Act of 2015. This renewed commitment to equal pay showed Californians the state’s commitment to attaining equality for all genders. Should you have questions concerning the Equal Pay Act, please contact our Los Angeles employment lawyer for a free consultation.

What has changed as a result of the California Equal Pay Act?

There have been several changes that came as a result of the California Equal Pay Act. They can be summarized as the following:

  • Equal pay is required to be provided to employees performing work that is very closely related.
  • Employees need equal pay, even if they work in different places.
  • Employers cannot justify unequal pay by trying to devise another excuse.
  • Any sound factors for differences in pay need to be applied reasonably.
  • Employees are barred from retaliating against employees who bring up an issue regarding unequal pay.
  • Employers must keep records of wage earnings for three years instead of two.

What is offered by the Equal Pay Act currently?

Currently, the Equal Pay Act bars employers from paying rates that come in as less than what employees of another gender get. This also applies to other races or ethnicity as well. The one caveat is that the work they perform must be very similar. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to pin down specific work. In that case, an equal skill or responsibility can be used as a metric.

What qualifies as very similar work under the Equal Pay Act?

Under the Equal Pay Act, work must be similar in a few ways to be considered significantly or substantially similar. The skill needs to be very similar, or the responsibilities and duties must be very similar. Skills can be broken down a little more. This can refer to any experience, abilities, training, or education needed to accomplish tasks within a role. Responsibilities can also be split up. This refers to an employee’s duties within the context of their position. Additionally, working conditions have to be very similar.

What differences exist between the new and old Equal Pay Acts?

There are a few key differences between the Equal Pay Act under Federal and California law:

  • Differences in wages are also prohibited with regard to race or ethnicity.
  • Jobs no longer have to exist at the same location.
  • When the term “equal” is used, it refers to very similar work.
  • Employers will have difficulty justifying unequal pay based on gender, race, or ethnicity.
  • Employers will face stiffer penalties for retaliating against employees bringing a claim against them.
  • Employers are unable to bar employees from revealing what they earn. They are also not allowed to stop employees from asking other employees about what they earn.
  • Employers cannot look into someone’s previous pay rates and salaries to justify differences in pay. This is true when it pertains to gender, race, or ethnicity.

According Equal Pay Act, what proof do I need to show if I have a claim?

To follow Equal Pay Act, you will have to show proof. This would prove that you are getting paid less than someone of another gender, race, or ethnicity. Additionally, you must prove that the other employee(s) are doing work similar to yours. When you can demonstrate this, an employer has to prove something. They must prove that they had a good reason for the disparity in pay.

Can you still file a claim if someone earning more than you have a different title?

Yes, you still have the right to file a claim under the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act will compare jobs based on how similar they are. This holds regardless of what the titles of those jobs are.

What determines wage rates?

There are no concrete definitions of what “wage rates” are. This is a term used to describe any wages or salaries employees may receive. This can also include other types of compensation.

Is it possible for employers to win against a claim?

Yes, it is. Employers can win against claims using Equal Pay Acts. To do this, they must prove that any differences in pay for very similar work are because of the following:

  • seniority
  • merit
  • a method measuring how much is produced
  • another genuine factor besides gender, ethnicity, or race.

Employers have to demonstrate that one of the above is applicable. They must also prove that one of these is the sole reason for the difference in pay. Employers are currently not allowed to justify differences using previous earnings data. Employers can compensate using current salary data. However, any differences must be because of one of the above mentioned reasons. The employer has deep pockets to fight a claim. You should contact an experienced equal-pay lawyer to protect your interests.

Under the Equal Pay Act, what is considered a bona fide factor outside of gender, ethnicity, or race? How does it become applied?

Employers can win over a claim made using the Equal Pay Act. They can do so if they prove there is a genuine reason. This reason would have to be other than one based on gender, ethnicity, or race. The only way an employer can win in a situation like this is if they prove the reason was:

  • based on something other than gender, ethnicity, or race
  • based on job performance
  • par for the course when it comes to something needed for a business

Are there specific examples of bona fide factors?

Yes, there are. Some examples that do not involve gender, ethnicity, or race under the Equal Pay Act are the following:

  • education
  • training
  • experience

There are others, but these are the primary genuine bona fide factors. An Equal Pay Act can help you determine if you have a valid claim for unfair pay.

Do state government employees also receive coverage under the law?

Yes, they do. Government employees work in the state, county, and local entities. Public employees can now file claims against their employers under Equal Pay Act.

At what point should a equal pay act claim be filed?

Under the Equal Pay Act, employees must file claims within two years of a violation occurring. When a violation is intentional, the time gets extended to three years. Additionally, every paycheck with unequal pay is considered a violation. This information will be used for ascertaining the filing deadlines. Your Equal Pay Act will help you file a claim for monetary compensation.

Do you have to file an administrative claim before filing a court case?

First, you should file a Equal Pay Act claim with the office of the Labor Commissioner. Alternatively, you can take your claim to court. Employees are not obligated to file claims with the office of the Labor Commissioner before filing lawsuits in court. Sometimes, You can file your claim with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

What occurs when you file a claim with the office of the labor commissioner?

As soon as you file a Equal Pay Act claim with the office of the Labor Commissioner, the claim will be investigated. Then, it will be determined whether there was a violation of the law by the employer. If it is determined that there was no violation, the claim will be dismissed.

If it is determined that a Equal Pay Act violation did occur, it will require remedial action from the employer. In some cases, the employer will refuse to comply with these demands. When this happens, the Labor Commissioner will file a civil action in a court of law. This is done to recoup the wages and damages that the employer owes you.

Are you required to file claims with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department?

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is the entity that will enforce the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Equal Pay Act bars discrimination against gender, country of origin, ancestral lineage, or race. More categories also have protection, but these are the most common ones violated.

While you have the option to file a Equal Pay Act claim with this department, you are not required to do so. The office of the Labor Commissioner will only look into violations of the Equal Pay Acts. If you claim there was a violation that is outside the scope of that law, you may go ahead and file it with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. An Equal Pay Act will help you file a lawsuit in civil court for unfair pay.

Are you able to file claims anonymously when they are regarding the Equal Pay Act? Can you file in a group?

The names of individuals filing claims are kept confidential. This confidentiality is maintained until the claim is determined to be valid or not. When the claim has to be investigated, your name may be revealed. Yes, you are allowed to file as part of a group claim. This is possible when several employees are affected similarly by the same employer.

What do you receive when you win a claim?

If you win a claim about the Equal Pay Act, you can recoup the differences in wages, damages, and interest. If you were to file a court case, you also could recoup legal fees for an equal-pay lawyer.

Can employers do anything to ensure they follow the Equal Pay Act?

Yes, they can. Employers who want to comply with the Equal Pay Act should look at similar roles. Once they gather this information, they should determine whether everyone is getting paid equally, regardless of gender.

What is the required duration for keeping records of wages and their rates?

To adhere to the Equal Pay Act, employers have to hold onto records of wages and their rates for three years. They will also have to keep records of position classifications and terms and conditions for employment.

Am I allowed to inquire with an employer to find out how much someone else is paid?

Yes, you can do that. You are free to ask them how much others are getting paid. The caveat is that an employer is not obliged to give you that information.

Are employers allowed to retaliate if you ask what other people are making?

No, they are not allowed to do that. Employees can freely talk about what they make to whomever they wish. Additionally, they are not allowed to stop employees from encouraging others to know their rights under the law. Employers are not allowed to retaliate when these conditions exist. If the employer retaliates, you should contact an Equal Pay Act to help you.

Are employers hiring someone allowed to ask what someone is getting paid or what they used to get?

No, they are not. If employers ask, in any way and through any medium, what someone’s salary history is, they are violating the law. They cannot use an employee’s past salary data to ascertain whether they should be hired.

There are only two instances where there is an exception to this. One is when the information is disclosed through California’s Public Records Act. Another is disclosed through the federal government’s Freedom of Information Act.

Are you allowed to provide your salary information to potential employers voluntarily?

Yes, you can do so. However, this has to be done without any cues or requests from the employer. Volunteering this information without being asked for it may be used against you. This is why you should carefully consider whether you want to provide this information to a potential employer.

However, employers are not allowed to use salary information in certain situations, even if it is voluntarily given up. These would be when there is a difference in gender, ethnicity, or race among employees who have very similar roles. This would be a violation of the Equal Pay Act and be illegal.

Do employers have to give information on pay scales for open positions?

Yes, they do if someone is applying for that position. Employers, if requested, will be required to provide this information. The request has to be deemed reasonable, which would be considered as such if someone had already been interviewed.

What is considered to be a “pay scale” officially?

Under the Equal Pay Act, the term “pay scale” refers to the salary or hourly rate someone is paid for a job.

Are protections in place if an employer retaliates when confronted with a violation?

Yes, there are. An employer may be found retaliating against employees who bring up violations of the Equal Pay Act. If this is the case, further action is possible, such as filing a claim.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

See all blogs: Business | Corporate | Employment Law

Most recent blogs:

When not to sign a severance agreement?

Do not sign a severance agreement if you do not understand it. By agreeing to a severance agreement, you give up your right to sue your employer. Remember, it is possible to negotiate the terms of your severance package. You are not required to sign a severance agreement.

How Do You Deal with a Toxic Business Partner?

Address concerns directly to the bad business partner; communicate openly and clearly. Consider mediation or seek legal advice from a business dispute attorney. Document disagreements, consider amicable separation if necessary.

How to Start a Corporation

How to form a corporation in 12 steps. This guide simplifies the process of starting a corporation in California, highlighting the benefits such as legal protection and tax savings for business owners. It covers key steps like selecting a business name, filing legal documents, and appointing directors.

What is a certificate of good standing?

A Certificate of Good Standing is a document issued by the government that certifies that a business has filed all reports and paid the necessary fees with the Secretary of State's office.

eBay vs Amazon

A comparison between eBay and Amazon on their pros and cons of selling online.

14 Best Self Employed Jobs

This article will give ideas for leaving your dead-end job or exploring self-employed jobs for extra income.

Community Involvement: Benefits and Ideas

Community involvement is consistent and meaningful participation in community activities that support and bring measurable positive improvements to the community in which your business operates.

What is fiduciary duty?

Fiduciary duty is a legal obligation of the highest degree for the person in trust to act in the beneficiary's best interest.

Responsibility of a Trustee

A trustee assumes the fiduciary responsibility of a trustee by managing the assets and distributing the profits to the beneficiaries according to the trust terms.

When to Hire a Business Attorney

It is prudent for business owners to hire an attorney specializing in business law before facing a lawsuit or issues with employees.

How to Pay Myself as a Sole Proprietor

Sole proprietors pay themselves by withdrawing cash from the business. The cash withdrawals are counted as income and are taxed at the end of the year. 

What Does A Trustee Do?

The trustee acts as the legal owner of trust assets and is responsible for managing the trust's assets, distributing the assets to beneficiaries, and filing tax returns.

Contact our attorney.

Please tell us your story:

5 + 2 = ?