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New bill aimed at narrowing woman-man wage gap in California

Studies have shown that, on average, women working full-time in California are paid 84 cents for each dollar earned by a man. In other words, it is estimated that full-time female workers in California lose about $33 billion a year.

A new piece of legislation that is expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown would go a little further than current state law in helping to close that wage gap. The Fair Pay Act, which was already passed with bipartisan support in the state Legislature, is set to make a number of important adjustments to California employment law.

One key protection provided by the legislation is a guarantee that women will not be discriminated against or retaliated against if they ask their employers or co-workers about everyone's pay rates. Note, however, that the employer is not legally obligated to disclose that information, but the employer would be barred from retaliating against any worker who asked.

Additionally, the legislation shifts the burden onto employers to show that a man's higher pay is due to reasons other than discrimination against women. In effect, the bill is meant to make it easier for women to bring pay discrimination claims.

For example, under the new legislation, a woman would be able to bring a discrimination claim based on a male co-worker's higher pay at a different location owned by the same employer. A female employee could also bring a discrimination claim based on a higher wage paid to a man who has a different job title, as long as the woman and the man do substantially similar work.

Employees who have been illegally underpaid may be entitled to thousands of dollars in back pay and penalties. To learn more, please see Bryant Whitten LLP's wage and hour law overview.

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