Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act into law, which will go into effect January 1, 2016 and tighten the reigns on California’s Equal Pay Act. The California Fair Pay Act (“CFPA”) intends to narrow the gender wage gap. In California, the wage gap, still gaping at $0.16, is slightly less than the national average. The national average trails behind California with women earning $0.22 on the dollar less than men. What’s worse, with a significant Latino demographic, California’s Latina residents earn $0.56 on the dollar less than white males, more than anywhere else in the country. In fact, all women of color suffer a significant pay disparity nationwide.
The CFPA improves upon California’s existing equal pay laws and provides that women performing work substantially similar (not just equal) to their male counterparts must be paid equally regardless of their actual job title or office location. This is especially helpful for employees working at companies with multiple locations under the same ownership. For example, if the female Store Manager from the El Cajon “Party Pals” is paid a fraction of the male Store Manager’s salary in their Poway location, there is likely a violation of the CFPA. Similarly, if the female cashier is earning less than the male “payment specialist” who also happens to perform the same work as the cashier, this too, would violate the CFPA. Under the CFPA, employers must now prove that their wage differences are based on seniority or merit, and do not exist for discriminatory reasons. This represents a bold and necessary departure from the previous standard employers were held to in equal pay cases.
The CFPA further prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against their employees who inquire about or discuss each other’s wages. With more teeth than California’s Equal Pay Act, we can hope to narrow the gender wage gap and restore equality to the California workplace. It will not only benefit women but the companies who employ them and the economy as a whole. Just ask Patricia Arquette, whose Oscar speech on equality arguably launched this promising California legislation.