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Know Your Worth: Understanding Your Rights Under the Equal Pay Act

California equal pay act lawyersThe fight for equal pay is an ongoing battle, and for many women in the workforce, the wage gap is a persistent reality. At Matern Law Group, we believe in ensuring fair treatment for all employees. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 is a crucial piece of legislation that protects workers from unequal pay based on gender. March 12, Equal Pay Day, commemorates this legislation.

What is the Equal Pay Act?

The EPA was signed into law in 1963. It prohibits employers from making decisions on pay that are based on sex. This means that employees performing equal work, under similar conditions, within the same establishment must receive equal pay, regardless of their sex or gender.

What does “equal work” mean?

Equal work does not mean identical jobs, but rather substantially similar jobs. This means that the jobs are equal with respect to the following factors:

  • Skill: The level of skill required to perform the job.
  • Effort: The amount of physical or mental exertion needed for the job.
  • Responsibility: The duties, tasks, and accountability associated with the job.
  • Working conditions: The physical and environmental conditions under which the work is performed.

Federal vs. California Equal Pay Act

While the federal EPA is a strong law, California’s Equal Pay Act offers even greater protections for workers. Here’s what makes it different:

  • Protected categories: California’s law expands on the federal protections by prohibiting unequal pay based on not just sex, but also race and ethnicity.
  • Substantially similar work: California’s definition of “substantially similar work” is considered broader than the federal standard. This means that even if two jobs are not identical, they may still be required to be paid equally if they are comparable in terms of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.
  • Prior salary history: California prohibits employers from using an employee’s prior salary to justify a pay difference based on sex, race, or ethnicity.
  • Right to discuss wages: Employees in California have the right to discuss their wages with coworkers and cannot be retaliated against for doing so.

Exceptions to the Equal Pay Act

There are limited exceptions that employers can use to justify a difference in pay. These include factors such as:

  • Seniority: More experienced employees may be eligible for higher pay.
  • Merit: Employees with a proven track record of superior performance can receive higher compensation.
  • Quantity or quality of production: Employees who consistently produce a higher volume or quality of work may be paid more.
  • A bona fide factor other than sex: This is a narrow exception, and the employer must demonstrate that the factor is related to the job and necessary for business success.

What should you do if you think you’re being underpaid?

If you suspect you’re receiving unequal pay for equal work compared to a colleague of a different sex, here are some steps you can take:

  • Gather evidence by documenting your job duties, responsibilities, and qualifications. Collect any salary information you have about colleagues with similar jobs.
  • Consider raising the issue directly with your manager or HR department.
  • Seek legal counsel from an experienced employment attorney who can advise you on your rights and explore legal options, if necessary.

Matern Law Group can help

At Matern Law Group, we are committed to protecting the rights of employees facing discrimination in the workplace. If you believe you are being underpaid based on your sex or gender, we can help you understand your options under the Equal Pay Act. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and determine the best course of action.

Know your worth and fight for fair compensation. Contact Matern Law Group today for a free consultation.

Vanessa Rodriguez

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