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Los Angeles Equal Pay Act Attorneys

equal pay act attorneys in Los Angeles

Representing Your Right to Fair Pay

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2020, women earn approximately 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Disparities also exist between different racial and ethnic groups, with members of more than one disadvantaged class (for instance, women of color) earning significantly less than their white counterparts. For instance, Latina women earn around 57 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. These gaps are more dramatic in certain fields. Female financial managers, for example, earn 65.3 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same roles. 

California has some of the nation’s strongest laws to combat these disparities. In California and across the United States, laws are in place to prevent gender-based pay disparities in the workplace. These laws include the Equal Pay Act and the Fair Pay Act. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that employees are paid equally for substantially similar work, regardless of their gender. Our skilled California Equal Pay Act attorneys can help you enforce your rights under these laws.

I don't have words to thank you the king and Siegel team worked so hard on my case during the pandemic and I am so grateful and proud of my outcome with them. They are reasonable and reliable. Those you can trust .. everytime I had a question they would answer it I recommend them 100 percent.. am so thankful for the team .. my worries and stress are over .. a huge weight over my shoulder was lifted and was able to help my family during this hard time thank you so much king and Siegel team..
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Vanessa Ponce
March 8, 2022
I was really nervous about hiring a lawyer but Julian and everyone in her office made the process as stress-free as it could be. She is kind, reassuring and confident and that helps make the process feel less scary. she also knows what kinds of outcomes are reasonable and will explain in detail why, and has a plan to get there. I cannot recommend her more highly.
Ines Martinez
Ines Martinez
March 8, 2022
I had the pleasure of being represented by this wonderful office and their attorneys! They were very quick about answering any questions and most times explained things so well that my questions were answered before I got the chance to ask them. I had an amazing experience, everyone is kind and very attentive to your wants and needs. A case can be very stressful and they did a great job at keeping me sane and comfortable through the entire process. I recommend them 100%.
Adrianna Sells
Adrianna Sells
October 25, 2021
This in an incredibly professional and responsive firm. There was an ease about getting initial information, scheduling, and working with their talented team. While I found it to be true of everyone that I encountered here, it was Julian Burns King that really went above and beyond. Her expertise, experience, and knowledge of employment law and its many facets coupled with her empathy and compassion for her clients, is truly one of a kind. I would absolutely recommend King & Siegel to anyone in need of legal advice or representation.
Jeri Mares
Jeri Mares
October 12, 2021
Everyone at this firm was so helpful, supportive, and nice. The settlement I got changed my life and working with them was as good as a lawsuit could possibly be. I am so glad I found them for my wrongful termination suit.
Evelyn A
Evelyn A
September 25, 2021
I’m glad I trusted the team of King & Seigel to handle my case they are the definition of professionalism. They were honest and very upfront with the process and kept me informed every step of the way not to mention I’m more than happy with the results. Thank you again to the team of King and Seigel.
Ramon Rodriguez
Ramon Rodriguez
December 9, 2020
Julian & Elliot are very good lawyers and I am glad I trusted them with my case. When I hired attorneys, I didn't know what to look for, but I am glad I found them. They were always attentive to my case and I never felt lost even though I did not have any prior experience with litigation. Ultimately, they got a result I was happy with and I am so glad I had them to help me put this experience behind me. You would be lucky to have them in your corner.
Ryan J
Ryan J
August 5, 2020
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Yanni Boo
Yanni Boo
July 15, 2020

Contact us now at (213) 465-4802 so you can rely on our zealous Los Angeles Equal Pay Act lawyers at King & Siegel LLP for detailed answers to your questions.

Background on Race and Gender-Based Pay Gaps

Gender and race-based pay gaps are common and affect workers across industries. Studies show that, in 2020, Black workers earned around 76 cents for every dollar earned by white workers, while Hispanic workers earned around 73 cents for every dollar earned by white workers.

Gender and race-based pay gaps are common and affect workers across industries. Studies show that, in 2020, Black workers earned around 76 cents for every dollar earned by white workers, while Hispanic workers earned around 73 cents for every dollar earned by white workers.

As noted above, US Census data shows that women as a class earn approximately 82 cents for each dollar earned by white men; some studies show an even greater gap. These gaps are wider in certain fields, especially fields where men are historically dominant and masculine traits are particularly prized. In 2020, the National Women’s Law Center reported that women working as financial managers earned 65.3 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same roles.

The pay gap is compounded when examining both gender and race. Hispanic or Latina women earned around 57 cents, Black women earned around 63 cents, Asian American women earned around 85 cents, and Native women earned about 57 cents for each dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. These gaps translate into an annual median wage loss of $22,692 for Black women, $29,724 for Latinas, and $28,797 for Native women.

Mothers of all races pay a steep price for having children. Many younger, childless women enter the workforce at or near pay parity with male peers. Studies consistently show that women are penalized for having children, while men are rewarded for it. Supervisors assume that mothers are flakey, uncommitted, and unreliable, while they assume that fathers are stable, reliable providers. The American Sociological Review reported in 2018 that women’s earnings decreased by around 4% per child. Men’s wages increase as they have children.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community illustrate the many fascinating and intersectional dynamics that underpin the gender-based pay gap. Economists have conducted studies comparing the earnings of lesbian women and gay men to those of straight women and men. The findings mostly indicate that lesbian women tend to earn more than straight women, while gay men tend to earn less than straight men. In another study conducted with a sample of workers in the Netherlands, researchers found that transgender women experienced a reduction in wages following their transition. These researchers found that there is a “transition penalty” for all trans workers, which offsets the earnings gain of female-to-male workers but “amplifies the earnings loss of [male-to-female] workers.”  

Persistent disparities in pay based on gender and race continue to affect employment and income across different demographics, as demonstrated by these statistics. It is crucial to make efforts to rectify these gaps and strive towards equitable compensation in the workforce.

The Federal Equal Pay Act

In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. The federal EPA prohibits wage discrimination based on sex. It does not address pay gaps based on race or ethnicity. The federal EPA prohibits paying members of the “opposite sex” a lower rate for “equal work” on jobs that require “equal skill, effort, and responsibility, which are performed under similar working conditions.”

The federal EPA provides four exceptions:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
  • A differential based on a “factor other than sex.”

Case law makes clear that the federal EPA does not require “proof of intentional discrimination.” Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618, 640 (2007). The employer is presumptively liable once the plaintiff makes an initial showing of unequal pay. Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 195 (1974). Then, the employer bears the burden of proving that one of the four exceptions applies.

The scope of these exceptions has been heavily litigated. “Seniority” compensates employees for “heightened value” accrued through “personal work experiences” over time, while merit “rewards greater ability.” The third exception, regarding performance metrics, is relatively straightforward. The fourth “catch-all” exception does not apply to “literally any other factor” besides sex. Eisenhauer v. Culinary Inst. of Am., 21-2919-cv, at *36 (2d Cir. Oct. 17, 2023). It only applies where there are “legitimate business-related considerations.” For instance, it has been applied in cases where an employer has a fixed, generally applicable formula to grant annual raises.

The California Equal Pay Act

The California Equal Pay Act is intended to eliminate pay discrepancies between employees of different sexes, races, or ethnicities who perform “substantially similar work.” Under the Act, employers are prohibited from paying employees of one sex less than their counterparts of the opposite sex who perform substantially similar work.

“Substantially similar work” points to jobs that need almost identical levels of skill, effort, and responsibility, conducted in comparable working circumstances. The application of these parameters does not necessitate the jobs to be identical in their specifics, i.e., they don’t need to be carbon copies of each other.

Let’s illustrate this by considering the jobs of two chefs. Chef A operates in an upscale restaurant, whereas Chef B runs a more modest-sized food cart. Despite these differing setups, the skill (culinary expertise), effort (physical and mental exertion in food preparation), and responsibility (overseeing food safety and delivering consistent quality) required by both chefs are markedly similar. The specifications of their duties may differ, but an examination of the tasks in a broader perspective reveals that the work they do is “substantially similar”.

Once a plaintiff shows that they are paid less than someone of a different race, gender, or ethnicity doing a “substantially similar” job, the defendant may prove any of four enumerated affirmative defenses. These defenses include:

  • Seniority System: Pay differentials can be justified under a seniority system where the length of service in a company may determine the employee’s pay. For instance, an employee who has been with the company longer may earn a higher pay.
  • Merit System: In a merit system, payroll is affected by the employee’s performance. In a sense, it’s akin to a rewards program where hard work and high performance result in higher.
  • Production System: Under this system, earnings can be measured by the quantity or quality of production. For example, in a sales role, a person who sells more can earn more income, and this measures quantity. Conversely, in roles where customer service is a factor, better service can be rewarded and this measures quality.
  • Bona Fide Factors Other than Sex: The Act also allows another exception where pay differentials can be based on any factor other than sex. These could include factors such as education, training, or experience, as long it is deemed to be business-related and necessary for the role.

How Do State & Federal Equal Pay Laws Differ?

Both the California and federal Equal Pay Acts prohibit wage discrimination, but the California statute is broader in scope. The California statute prohibits wage discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and sex, while the federal statute only addresses sex-based wage discrimination. This distinction is noted in the analysis of California’s new pay equity data reports, which states that the California Fair Pay Act “protects employees from pay discrimination based on their race or color and their ethnicity in addition to their sex.”

Another key difference between the two statutes is the standard for comparing the plaintiff’s job to the comparator’s job. The federal Equal Pay Act requires “equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” However, the California statute requires only that the comparator’s job be “substantially similar” to the plaintiff’s when “viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.” This distinction is noted in several cases.

Despite these differences, the two statutes are often subject to the same analysis. For example, in Davis v. Inmar, Inc., the court notes that the California Equal Pay Act is “nearly identical to the federal statute and subject to the same analysis.” Similarly, in Green v. Par Pools, Inc., the court notes that the California statute is “nearly identical to the federal Equal Pay Act” and that it is “appropriate to rely on federal authorities construing the federal statute.”

How Do Equal Pay Laws Differ From Laws Prohibiting Discrimination?

Some, but not all, claims under the Equal Pay Act may also be brought as discrimination claims under the federal Title VII or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. 

The Equal Pay Act and Title VII both prohibit sex-based wage discrimination, but they differ in terms of the burdens of proof and defenses available to employers. Under the Equal Pay Act, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of wage discrimination by demonstrating that the employer pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex for equal work. This requires showing that the jobs in question require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions. Once the plaintiff makes out a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to justify the wage differential by proving that the disparity results from a seniority system, a merit system, a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any other factor other than sex.

Under Title VII, the plaintiff must show that the employer discriminated against her with respect to compensation because of her sex. This is a broader prohibition than the Equal Pay Act, which only prohibits wage disparities for equal work. However, Title VII incorporates the Equal Pay Act’s defenses by reference, meaning that differentiations permitted by the Equal Pay Act are also approved in Title VII cases.

Remedies under both laws may include back pay, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees. Under the Equal Pay Act, the court must assess whether the defendant’s conduct was “willful” in order to determine the appropriate remedy.

Plaintiffs with discrimination claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act may also seek punitive damages.

Pay Secrecy or Pay Transparency Laws

California’s Labor Code § 432.3 sets out specific requirements for employers regarding the disclosure of pay scale information in job postings. The statute prohibits employers from relying on an applicant’s salary history when making hiring decisions, and requires employers with 15 or more employees to include a pay scale in job postings. Additionally, the statute requires employers to provide the pay scale to an applicant or employee upon request. The statute also sets out the consequences for violating these requirements, including civil penalties.

Similar laws have been enacted in New York City, Colorado, and Washington. These laws generally require employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings, and some also require employers to provide wage statement information to employees.

Retaliation is Illegal

State and federal law prohibits retaliation based on an employee’s exercise of rights under state or federal Equal Pay Acts. This means that

To establish a retaliation claim under the California Equal Pay Act, an employee must generally show that they engaged in a protected activity, that the employer subjected them to an adverse employment action, and that there is a causal link between the protected activity and the employer’s action. However, under SB 497, a rebuttable presumption of retaliation arises if the employer takes adverse action against the employee within 90 days of the employee invoking or assisting in the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act.

How to Fix the Gender and Race-Based Pay Gap

In order to achieve equal pay, we must first acknowledge that there is an issue. Pay transparency laws are a significant step in the right direction, and more jurisdictions should enact them. Similarly, setting wages based on salary history should be prohibited nationwide.

Employees also should be encouraged to freely discuss their wages. Pay gaps thrive in secret; publicly available salary scales make it more likely that those who are disadvantaged will be able to bargain in their own self-interest. If bargaining fails, they will have the information needed to determine whether they have legal claims.

Contact Us Today for a Free Case Review

If you believe you’ve experienced unequal pay due to your gender, race, or ethnicity, our team of Equal Pay Act and Fair Pay Act attorneys is here to help. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case.

Our experienced legal team also handles other types of employment law cases, including cases relating to:

If you have been wronged in the workplace, call King & Siegel, LLP now for a free consultation! We offer a free case evaluation and work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay us unless you win.

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