Expansion of California's Fair Pay Act to take effect in 2017

This article looks at changes to the Fair Pay Act that will be coming into effect in the new year.

California is known for having some of the most employee-friendly laws in the country. In 2015, the state fueled that reputation by passing the Fair Pay Act, which guaranteed equal pay with few exceptions between male and female employees if those employees carried out substantially similar job duties. Now, as Bloomberg BNA points out, that law is being expanded to protect employees of racial minorities. In addition, the law is also being expanded to include further protections against gender pay disparity. The new rules will go into effect at the start of 2017.

Gender pay equity

The Fair Pay Act was passed in 2015 and was designed to help close the pay gap that exists between male and female employees. Unlike previous pay equity legislation, the Fair Pay Act required employers to pay male and female employees the same if those employees performed substantially similar job duties. As the Los Angeles Times reports, previous legislation had set a much higher standard of only requiring pay equity for employees who performed essentially the exact same job duties.

The Fair Pay Act did allow some exceptions to the gender pay equity requirement, so long as such an exception was not based on gender. For example, an employer could justify paying one employee more than another (even if they both performed substantially similar duties) if the higher-paid employee had higher seniority, higher education credentials (that were relevant to her/his job), or worked in an area of the state with a higher cost of living.

Income history and race-related pay disparity

However, beginning in the new year employers will no longer be able to use an employee's income history to justify paying that employee less than another employee. Supporters of the tighter rules contend that using pay history to justify an employee's salary simply exacerbates and prolongs entrenched income disparities between men and women.

Furthermore, the law has been expanded to apply the protections it granted to female employees to employees of different races and ethnicities. Beginning in 2017, two employees of different races/ethnicities will have to be paid the same if they perform substantially similar jobs, unless the employer has a valid reason (such as seniority or education level) for paying them differently.

Employment law

California has some of the toughest employment laws in the country. When an issue or dispute arises in relation to discrimination or fair pay, it is important for those involved, whether they are employers or employees, to get in touch with an employment law attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what legal options they have so they can resolve their disputes in a satisfactory and efficient manner.