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How We Help Fight Discrimination, Retaliation, and Wage Theft on Behalf of Our Clients.

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Most employees can easily agree: The wages you’re paid shouldn’t have anything to do with your gender or race. However, many women and minority workers today still earn far less than their coworkers who perform the same jobs. 

Under the Equal Pay Act, California employees have the right to fair compensation, regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity. Employers who don’t ensure employees receive equal pay for equal work can be held financially responsible under federal and state law.

The San Francisco Equal Pay Act lawyers at King & Siegel LLP have a wealth of experience helping employees successfully recover compensation in wage discrimination claims. If you’re concerned that you’re not being paid equally for your work, contact our office today

What Are My Rights Under the Equal Pay Act?

The federal Equal Pay Act is a 1963 law aimed to outlaw compensation discrimination based on gender. This applies not just to differences in salary or hourly wage but also to:

  • Overtime pay, 
  • Bonuses,
  • Vacation pay,
  • Reimbursement for travel expenses, 
  • Life insurance, and
  • Other employee benefits.

Originally, the Equal Pay Act was designed to combat pay discrimination faced by women in the workplace. But its protections extend to any person of any gender. For example, if women working as cashiers at a fast-food restaurant receive higher hourly wages than the men who do the same job, that could be a violation of the Equal Pay Act.

Importantly, if the restaurant owner wanted to fix this inequality, they could only do so by raising the men’s wages. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers can’t lower wages to correct a gap between people doing substantially equal jobs.

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California Equal Pay Act

California has its own version of the Equal Pay Act. This law is similar to the national version, but it goes further in the protections that it offers to employees.

For one, California’s Equal Pay Act also prohibits employers from taking race and ethnicity into account in wage rates. Under the law, employees performing “substantially similar work” deserve the same rate of pay regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity.

To help maintain compliance with the act, employers must keep a record of the wage rates and job classifications of anyone they employ for at least three years. They’re also not allowed to use an employee’s prior salary or wage to justify paying them a lower rate. 

California’s Equal Pay Act also protects employees from being punished for exercising their right to ensure they’re paid fairly. Employers are banned from retaliating against workers who discuss their wages with coworkers or ask about another employee’s wages.

What Do I Need for an Equal Pay Act Claim?

To bring an Equal Pay Act claim, you will first need to determine whether your claim qualifies under federal law, state law, or both.

Federal Equal Pay Act

To bring a claim under the federal Equal Pay Act, you must show that you are paid less than a coworker of the other sex who performs a job that is “substantially equal” to yours in terms of certain factors:

  • Skill—the experience, ability, education, and training needed to perform the job;
  • Effort—the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job; 
  • Responsibility—the degree of accountability required to perform the job;
  • Working conditions—the job’s physical surroundings and the hazards it involves; and
  • Establishment—the physical location where the job is performed.

Two jobs don’t have to be exactly alike to be “substantially equal.” They just have to involve duties and conditions that are closely related or very much alike. 

Be aware that the federal Equal Pay Act applies only to wages compared between male and female employees at the same worksite or “establishment.” However, there are some situations when you could claim pay inequality when compared to someone at a different worksite—for instance, if the same manager oversees both locations and employees frequently move back and forth between them.

California Equal Pay Act

To bring a claim under the California Equal Pay Act, you have to show that you were paid less than someone of a different sex, race, or ethnicity than you performing an equivalent job. 

Instead of “substantially equal,” California’s Equal Pay Act measures whether jobs are “substantially similar.” Like the federal version, the state law also looks at what a position involves in terms of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.

However, the California Equal Pay Act doesn’t require employees to work at the same worksite to be deserving of equal wage rates.

Are There Exceptions to the Equal Pay Act? 

There are some situations when differences in wage rates might not be a violation of equal pay laws. Both the federal and state versions of the Equal Pay Act allow employers to legally justify differences in pay based on:

  • Employee seniority,
  • Employee merit,
  • Employee production quality or quantity, and
  • Another legitimate factor not based on sex (or race/ethnicity under California law).

Under California’s Equal Pay Act, employers who want to justify a pay difference must also ensure that their reason is based on a business necessity.

What Can I Do About Pay Discrimination? 

California employees experiencing gender-based pay inequality can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Labor Commissioner’s office. If you want to file a claim for pay discrimination based on race or ethnicity, then you must do so with the Labor Commissioner. In either case, a federal or state agency will investigate your claim and decide whether to take action. 

You also have the option to bring a civil lawsuit against your employer. Unlike in other cases of workplace discrimination, employees don’t have to file an administrative claim before filing a lawsuit for pay inequality.

With the help of a legal professional, you may be able to recover the difference in unpaid wages or benefits that you should have received under the Equal Pay Act. 

Whether you’re considering a complaint or a lawsuit, it’s important not to wait too long to take action. The statute of limitations for filing an equal pay claim or a lawsuit is two years after the last incident of unequal compensation.

If you wait too long, you can miss out on your opportunity to recover the payment you’re owed. To be safe, it’s best to get in touch with a lawyer immediately if you’re concerned about pay discrimination.

How Can a Lawyer Help with My Pay Discrimination Case?

The support of an attorney could mean the difference between recovering thousands of dollars in back pay or losing out on the compensation you’re owed. An equal pay attorney in San Francisco can listen to your story and help determine whether federal or state law is most relevant to your situation.

A skilled San Francisco employment lawyer can also help you identify and collect the evidence necessary to build an equal pay claim. Equal pay cases can be challenging to prove; your employer has the chance to counter a charge with evidence of a merit- or seniority-based compensation system. The support and experience of an attorney are essential to overcome these defenses and recover the compensation you deserve.

Reach Out for a Free Case Evaluation 

For years, the San Francisco Equal Pay Act Lawyers at King & Siegel LLP have fought to ensure that workers receive equal pay for equal work. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping employees navigate between federal and state law to build a strong case for compensation.

If you’re concerned about pay inequality, don’t wait to reach out. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation and learn about how we can help you.

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