Wage Discrimination

Wage Discrimination and California’s Equal Pay Act

California’s Equal Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination. This includes paying employees at a lower wage rate than employees of a different gender, race or ethnicity. This applies to jobs performed under similar working conditions that require substantially similar work, when considering skill, effort, and responsibility.1

Exceptions to California’s Equal Pay Act

Although employers are prohibited from engaging in wage discrimination, California’s equal pay laws permit a wage differential between employees of another, gender, race or ethnicity based on the following legitimate business reasons:

  • A seniority system.
  • A merit system.
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
  • A bona fide factor other than sex, race or ethnicity. This may include education, training, or experience relevant to the job position and the needs of the business.

To establish an exception to the equal pay requirements, however, an employer must affirmatively demonstrate that a wage differential is based upon a legitimate reason entirely unrelated to sex, race or ethnicity. An employer must demonstrate that the factors relied upon were applied reasonably and account for the entire wage differential.

Wage Transparency

To promote wage equality, the law now permits employees to disclose their wages to others. Employers can no longer prohibit employees from disclosing their own wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about other employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging other employees to exercise their rights to equal pay. Additionally, due to the history of women receiving lesser pay than men for the same jobs, an employee’s prior salary history can not be used as justification for a wage disparity.

Penalties for Violation of the Law

The equal pay laws provide harsh penalties for wage discrimination. Employers are prohibited from retaliating in any way against an employee for enforcing his or her equal pay rights. An employee who suffered wage discrimination in violation of the equal pay laws may recover various forms of damages. These include: twice the wages lost due to the employer’s discrimination, plus interest and attorney’s fees. An employee may also be entitled to job reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits.

If you are the victim of wage discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act, contact Kaplan Weiss LLP for a free consultation. Our attorneys have the experience to successfully handle your wage discrimination claim.


  1. Labor Code Section 1197.5.