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Is your company paying you a fair wage under the law?

Compared to many others around the country, California has long been a state that enforced wage laws that protected its workers. For example, the California Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying lower wages to workers of one gender than the workers of the opposite gender who do the same jobs.

About 18 months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act, which further added worker protections, such as:

-- Obligating that employees be paid equally if they do essentially the same tasks if taken into account their effort, responsibility and skill.

-- Nullifying requirements for the compared workers to be employed at the same facility.

-- Making it harder for companies to successfully use the defense of "bona fide factor other than sex."

-- Making sure that the legitimate factors that companies rely on to justify wage discrepancies are reasonably applied and apply to the entire pay differential.

Also, workers are no longer prohibited from discussing their wages among themselves, which in the past could be construed as having a chilling effect on wage equality for workers.

This does not mean that employers are without defenses to Equal Pay Act claims, however. They may still be able to prove the wage difference for essentially similar work is due to:

-- Merit

-- Seniority

-- Systems measuring worker productivity

-- "Bona fide factor[s] other than sex"

Employers also have to prove that the above factors were reasonably applied and responsible for all of the wage differential.

"Bona fide factor[s] other than sex" have to be related to the job and also be consistent with necessities for the business, such as special training, education or experience.

Despite these protections from the state law, some employers still attempt to take advantage of their workers and cheat them out of their rightful wages. If you have been denied overtime, or paid less than a co-worker of a different gender at the same position, you may prevail by filing an Equal Pay Act claim.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "California Equal Pay Act," accessed May 19, 2017

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