Our holiday table was groaning under the weight of roasted meat, aromatic stuffing, potatoes and vegetables. And once we had enjoyed a heaping plateful and some delightful conversation, we went back to the kitchen for dessert. Only to find that each of the beautiful pies, cut to serve six, was missing a giant slice. That missing slice of pie represents how much less, on average, women in California are paid compared to their male co-workers.
Female workers make only 85 cents for every dollar earned by male workers, and the pay gap is even worse for women of color—for African American women the gap is 64% compared to white men and for Hispanic women it is 54%! World War II saw women join the paid workforce in unprecedented numbers. Rosie the Riveter represents the strength and attitude of women who worked in the factories and shipyards of California during the war years. Once the war was over, many of these female workers were displaced by returning soldiers. The California legislature led the nation in enacting the Equal Pay Act in 1949. Over the years, the Act has been refined to remove the loopholes that allowed employers to continue disparate treatment of their female employees.
Over the course of a 40-year career, the average American woman will lose out on about $430,000 as a result of the wage gap, according the Center for American Progress. The pay gap starts early—if a woman earns less in her first job, frequently her new employer will set her salary based on her prior pay. The latest amendments to the California Equal Pay act prohibit employers from seeking salary history and protect employees who ask about or discuss wages paid to co-workers.
California’s Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying its employees at a wage rate that is less than the wage rate it pays to employees of the opposite sex, or of another race, or of another ethnicity for “substantially similar work,” when that work is viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility, and working conditions. An employer may compensate employees differently by taking into account education, training or experience—but not based on sex, race or ethnicity.
Here at the California Civil Rights Law Group, we have experience in successfully representing clients with claims under the Equal Pay Act against employers large and small in jury trials and arbitrations. If you have questions about unequal treatment, retaliation, or wrongful termination contact the California Civil Rights Law Group at 415-453-4740. With offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Anselmo in Marin County, it’s easy to set up a confidential appointment with a Bay Area discrimination attorney.
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