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Fighting back against wage discrimination

The ongoing gender pay gap can have a material impact on women workers in California as well as their entire families. According to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, women earn 80.5 cents for every dollar that men earn at the workplace. April 10 marks Equal Pay Day, commemorated annually to highlight that women in the United States must work 15 months to earn the same amount that men make in just one year. Of course, the impact of the gender pay gap is compounded by the intersection with race.

Latina women make 54 cents for every dollar men earn, and black women earn 63 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. While the immediate impact can be more severe for women in low-wage industries, the gap ranges throughout the pay structure from hourly workers to relatively highly paid professionals. Wage discrimination doesn’t only hurt women as individuals; it can carry significant social costs. Women who earn less have less money to get out of debt, support their families, pay for education, buy a home or retire.

In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed, which barred wage discrimination on the job on the basis of sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. However, over 50 years after the adoption of these laws, new federal and state action could help further address ongoing injustice in pay.

The wage gap is a significant social problem that could require legislative intervention. At the same time, however, many women face daily workplace discrimination on the basis of gender in a targeted, legally actionable manner. An employment lawyer can help people who have been discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of gender, race, disability, religion or national origin protect their rights.