Equal pay law in California now covers gender and race

California has new measures in place to help protect women and minorities against pay discrimination.

California has some of the strongest equal pay laws in the country and the start of 2017 saw them get a little bit tougher. As CBS Los Angeles reports, California's Fair Pay Act, which essentially mandates that women and men who perform substantially similar jobs get paid the same amount, has been expanded to help eliminate pay differences between employees of different races and ethnicities. The strengthened version of the Fair Pay Act is a major development in employee rights in California and an important step to helping achieve pay parity faster.

Changes to the Fair Pay Act

The Fair Pay Act came into force at the beginning of the 2016. At the time the legislation was largely designed to help close the pay gap between men and women. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the legislation was significant because it required employers to provide the same pay to their male and female employees if those employees did "substantially similar" work, rather than simply doing the exact same job. Pay differences were still permitted, but they had to be justified according to qualifications that did not have to do with gender, such as education, credentials, seniority, and so on.

The Fair Pay Act was later amended and those changes came into force at the beginning of this year. Instead of just trying to close the gender pay gap, the Fair Pay Act now expands the protections it granted to female employees to employees of different races and ethnicities. In other words, two employees who perform "substantially similar" work and are of different ethnicities must now be paid the same salary unless there is a valid reason, unrelated to race or ethnicity, for the pay gap.

Other changes in effect

The Fair Pay Act was also changed to bar employers from using salary history as a basis for justifying what would otherwise be an unlawful pay gap. While employers can still ask employees about their pay history, they cannot use that history as a reason for offering that employee a lower salary than another employee in the same or similar position. The reason for the change is to prevent what may have been discriminatory pay practices at a former workplace from being perpetuated at an employee's new workplace.

Employment law assistance

As California's employment law continues to evolve, employees should know that there is somewhere they can turn to for help. An employment law attorney can assist employees with upholding their rights, including in cases involving discrimination and unfair pay practices. By contacting a qualified attorney today, workers will have an advocate on their side working relentlessly to protect their best interests.