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What Is Wage Discrimination in California?


Wage discrimination occurs when employees with similar qualifications, working in comparable roles, receive different pay based on characteristics unrelated to their job performance.

In California, this issue often revolves around gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, and other protected categories. This form of discrimination not only violates state and federal laws but also undermines the principles of fairness and equality in the workplace.

California Law Forbids Wage Discrimination

California has some of the strongest laws in the United States to combat wage discrimination. The California Fair Pay Act, amended in 2015, significantly strengthened protections against wage discrimination.

Under this law, employers must provide equal pay for employees performing "substantially similar work," when considering skill, effort, and responsibility, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or inquire about wages, fostering transparency and accountability.

Identifying Wage Discrimination

Identifying wage discrimination involves recognizing disparities in pay that are not based on job performance, experience, or qualifications. It often requires careful observation and comparison of wages among employees in similar roles.

The following are some key indicators to look out for:

  • Disparity in pay: Noticeable differences in salaries between employees performing similar work, especially if these differences correlate with gender, race, ethnicity, age, or other protected categories.
  • Job title vs. job duties: Employees with the same job title but different pay may indicate wage discrimination, particularly if their duties and responsibilities are comparable.
  • Performance evaluations: Consistently higher performance evaluations that do not result in corresponding pay increases might suggest discrimination.
  • Salary history: If new hires with similar or lesser qualifications receive higher starting salaries than existing employees in similar roles, this could indicate discrimination.
  • Promotions and raises: Lack of promotions or raises for certain groups of employees, despite equivalent job performance, may signal discriminatory practices.
  • Transparency and openness: Employers who discourage discussions about salaries might be trying to hide discriminatory pay practices.

By paying attention to these indicators, employees can gather the necessary information to support their claims. If you suspect wage discrimination, take proactive steps to address and rectify the situation. You may wish to secure representation from an employment lawyer as soon as you suspect your disparate pay is the result of discrimination.

How to Address Wage Discrimination

Employees who suspect wage discrimination should first try to resolve the issue internally. This can involve discussing the matter with a supervisor or the human resources department. Employers committed to fair pay practices may address and correct discrepancies when they are brought to light.

If internal resolution fails, employees can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with help from a qualified employment lawyer. These agencies can investigate claims and, if necessary, take legal action against employers who violate wage discrimination laws.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

It’s important to address wage discrimination as soon as you become aware of it. This practice is not uncommon, and it can affect people from all walks of life.

We at K2 Employment Law can help when you believe the reason you’re paid less than your colleagues is rooted in discrimination. With our assistance, you can pursue legal recourse that can include damages for the pay you should have received, which can amount to a considerable sum.

Send us a message online to request a consultation where you can learn more about your legal options.

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