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Frequently Asked Questions


What state and federal agencies enforce equal pay laws?

In California, the Labor Commissioner’s Office (also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or DLSE) has the authority to enforce Labor Code Section 1197.5, which prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex, or of a different race or ethnicity for substantially similar work.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which among other things, precludes the discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and race.  Paying different wages due to an employee’s gender, race, or ethnicity is considered discrimination.

At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title I of the American Disabilities Act of 1990, which preclude discrimination in employment, such as unequal compensation, based upon protected classifications.


Overview of Current California Laws


California’s Equal Pay Laws (as of September 2018)

For decades, the California Equal Pay Act (CA Labor Code Section 1197.5) has prohibited an employer from paying its employees less than employees of the opposite sex for equal work.

In October 2015, Governor Brown signed the Fair Pay Act (SB 358 – Jackson), which changed the law and strengthened our state equal pay law in a number of ways, including:


Statutory History of Equal Pay laws in California and the United States


California first passed an Equal Pay Act in 1949.  Before the Fair Pay Act of 2015 was enacted, Labor Code section 1197.5 provided that:

No employer shall pay any individual in the employer’s employ at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions . . .


Information About Wages


There are many resources that employers and employees may wish to consult to determine appropriate compensation for a particular role. Please also note that job titles are not determinative but just an initial step in determining appropriate compensation for a particular role. The Task Force recommends consulting resources that provide a pay range, rather than the median compensation for a particular role. It is also recommended that more than one resource be consulted.


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DISCLAIMER: The materials provided on this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice about any particular issue or problem. The materials do not represent the opinions or conclusions of individual members of the Task Force. The posting of these materials does not create requirements or mandates.