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:

  • Prohibiting unequal rates of pay for employees of the opposite sex who perform “substantially similar work,” instead of “equal work;”
  • Eliminating the requirement that employees’ wage rates only be compared to those of other employees working in the same physical location or office (the “same establishment”);
  • Making it more difficult for employers to justify paying an employee of one sex less than another when they do substantially similar work by narrowing the defenses available;
  • Requiring that whatever factors an employer relies on to justify a difference in pay (like different levels of education, training, or experience) be job-related, used reasonably, and account for the entire pay difference;
  • Specifically making it illegal to retaliate or discriminate against employees who discuss or ask about pay, or take some step to enforce their own or a co-worker’s equal pay rights; and
  • Extending the number of years that employers must maintain records related to pay from two to three years.

In September 2016, Governor Brown signed the Wage Equality Act of 2016 with further amendments (SB 1063 – Hall and AB 1676 – Campos) to the Equal Pay Act including:

  • Adding race and ethnicity to the Equal Pay Act and thereby prohibiting employers from paying employees of one race or ethnicity less than employees of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work.
  • Amending the Equal Pay Act to bar employers from relying on an employee’s prior salary (by itself) to justify unequal pay between employees doing substantially similar work.

In October 2017, Governor Brown signed two further amendments to the law (AB 168 – Eggman and AB 46 – Cooper) which take effect on January 1, 2018:

  • Prohibits all employers — including the Legislature, the State, and local government agencies — from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment and requires employers to provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant upon reasonable request.
  • Declares that the Equal Pay Act also applies to public sector employers, including the State itself, by defining “employer” to include both public and private employers.
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