Fair Pay Act expanded to cover racial discrimination

This article looks at what recent amendments to the Fair Pay Act mean for employee rights in California.

California's Fair Pay Act, which was passed in 2015 and which greatly strengthens pay equity protections for women, was recently expanded to make those same protections available to people of different races and ethnicities, according to Bloomberg BNA. The expansions are a major benefit to employees in the Golden State who may have been victims of racial discrimination in the form of pay disparities. In addition to the race and ethnicity protections, the recent amendments to the Fair Pay Act also include additional protections for gender pay equity.

Closing the gender pay gap

The Fair Pay Act is a unique piece of legislation that has made California a leader in the world of employee rights law. The act requires employers to pay employees of both genders the same amount if they perform "substantially similar work." As the Los Angeles Times notes, previous pay equity laws had generally been interpreted as requiring employers to pay male and female employees the same only if they actually did the same jobs (i.e., if they held the same job titles).

The Fair Pay Act, however, simply requires that employees who are doing work that is "substantially similar," which is a much broader definition, be paid the same amount. While employers can still justify pay disparities between certain male and female employees, they are responsible for showing that such a disparity is justifiable. Furthermore, following the recent expansion of the law, they can no longer use an employee's salary history to justify paying that employee less than what somebody with similar job duties makes.

Expanding the Fair Pay Act

The recent amendments to the Fair Pay Act will expand the pay equity protections that were granted to women to also cover wage discrimination that is based on race or ethnicity. In other words, if an employee belong to a racial minority and makes less than a white employee who performs substantially similar work as the other employee, then the employer will either have to pay both employees the same or show why such a disparity is justifiable.

Expanding the Fair Pay Act to include employees of different races and ethnicities makes a lot of sense considering the alarming pay gap that exists between African-American, Hispanic, and white workers. For example, although women overall earn about 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, in California an African-American woman earns 63 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns, while while a Hispanic woman earns, on average, less than 43 cents on the dollar.

Employment law

An employment law attorney can help employees whose rights may have been violated. Whether the dispute relates to wage discrimination, harassment, whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination, or any other employment law issue, an experienced attorney can help employees understand what their rights are and how they may be able to fight for compensation.