Leveling the Playing Field in California Paychecks (SB 1063/AB 1676)

For many years, California has had an equal pay law aimed at remedying the gender pay gap, requiring equal pay for “equal work.”  Last year, California strengthened this longstanding law in several ways, including by changing the term “equal work” to “substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.”  This change made it easier for workers to show that an employer discriminates in its pay practices by expanding the pool of employees with whom workers can compare themselves.  You can see Weinberg, Roger, and Rosenfeld’s Update on that 2015 amendment here.  This month the provision was both expanded and strengthened.

Up until now, the Fair Pay Act limited its focus to women, by requiring equal pay only between workers of the “opposite sex.”  SB 1063 expands the law by adding the same protections for workers of a different “race or ethnicity.”

Our ability to enforce the protections also became stronger.  Previously, an employer was allowed to pay someone less than a person of the opposite sex if it could point to bona fide factors causing the difference, such as a seniority system.  While seniority is still a bona fide factor that can be considered, California passed AB 1676, which clarifies that an employee’s previous salary alone does not justify pay disparity—in other words an employer cannot rely on the fact that an employee was paid in a discriminatory manner by past employers, in order to continue paying that person less.

These are all important steps in making California a place where all workers can thrive and advance based on their skills and effort, rather than other factors.

For more information regarding the Fair Pay Act, SB 1063 or AB 1676, contact your labor law counsel.

By Xochitl Lopez | October 4, 2016

Legal Developments