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What Protections Does The Equal Pay Act Provide For?

By Corey Hanrahan

What protections does the Equal Pay Act provide for? The California Equal Pay Act protects employees against pay disparity based on sex/gender, race and national origin. To prevail on an claim under California’s Equal Pay Act, an employee must show that the employer paid an employee of another race, gender or ethnicity higher pay for “substantially similar work.” There is no need to prove discriminatory intent, though, since California’s Equal Pay Act is a strict liability statute. 

“…If the employer knows that an accommodation is failing to allow the employee to perform his or her job, the employer is required to explore further arrangements

I believe the focus in bringing an Equal Pay Act claim comes from proving that the work to which you are comparing your work is “substantially similar.” The law’s focus in this context is whether the jobs at issue share a “common core of tasks.” “Substantially similar work” means that of the same composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.  

After the employee is able to prove the elements under California’s Equal Pay Act, the employer then has the ability to establish a defense to that claim. However, unlike other employment claims, there are limited defenses available to the employer. These defenses are statutory. The only defenses available to an employer under the California Equal Pay Act are: (1) seniority system, (2) merit system, (3) system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (4) “differential based on any other factor than sex.” It is important to note that there is no “market rate defense” either (so an employer cannot rely on the defense that men must be paid more because they will not work at the rates paid to women). Additionally, there is no defense that the unequal pay rates are based on a collective bargaining agreement, or that it is the result of “business judgment.” 

If you are suffering from a pay disparity because of your sex/gender, race or ethnicity, contact The Hanrahan Firm for a free consultation to see how we can help you. 

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