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Senate Bill No. 358 - Addressing Gender Equality in Pay

Back in October of 2015 the California Senate and current Governor Jerry Brown approved and signed into law an amendment to Section 1197.5 of the Labor Code as it relates to private employment. While the amendment oversees and changes many existing structures within the California Labor Code, this blog focuses on those changes and how they affect what is essentially the "glass ceiling" and pay within the California labor structure.


"Existing law generally prohibits an employer from paying an employee at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. " - [1] SB-358 Conditions of employment: gender wage differential.

What Does This Mean for California Workers?

Essentially it means that employees doing the same job under the same conditions and with the same level of responsibility are to be paid the same wage regardless of their gender. That means that men and women who do the same job are to be paid the same wage.

Why Is This Important?

Across California are industries that employ both men and women to do the same job, but the pay for a man is higher than that of a woman or that women are paid more than men if the industry is suited more to women than men. Gender inequality exists worldwide, but in California, lawmakers are attempting to put an end to this practice. It means that differences in pay must be justified by law rather than preference or bias.

The Governor and lawmakers created an equal pay for equal duties amendment to help empower all employees in the fight for equality in the workplace.

There are Exceptions

"Existing law establishes exceptions to that prohibition where the payment is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any bona fide factor other than sex." [2]

The exceptions for a situation where pay differences must be enforced by another factor, such as one employee being on the job longer than another. What is important is that such difference must be enforced by company policy, tradition, and not by whim, personal preference, etc.

The Ramification for Employers

"Existing law makes it a misdemeanor for an employer or other person acting either individually or as an officer, agent, or employee of another person to pay or cause to be paid to any employee a wage less than the rate paid to an employee of the opposite sex as required by these provisions, or who reduces the wages of any employee in order to comply with these provisions." [3]

This amendment to the California labor law is important because it not only makes it illegal "Existing law makes it a misdemeanor" for an employer to pay based on gender, it holds that "other person acting either individually or as an officer, agent, or employee of another person to pay or cause to be paid to any employee a wage less than the rate paid to an employee of the opposite sex." Employees of a company are not accountable. Discrimination within the entire employment chain is spelled out in the legal language of the amendment to Section 1197.5 of the California Labor Code. This means that employers are no long able to hide their acts of discrimination by claiming that someone else was responsible. The entire employment chain is responsible. Further, it begs the question of what that responsibility is - Are employees required by law to report such wage discriminations even if the employee who is paid less is not aware of the discrimination?

Questions about specific situations are handled on a case-by-case basis by Lavi & Ebrahiminian, LLP who offers free consultations. If you believe you are being discriminated because of your gender or paid less because of your gender, contact us today and one of our trial lawyers will help evaluate your case.

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