The California State Senate recently approved SB 1063. The bill, also known as the Wage Equality Act of 2016, will create the strongest equal pay law in the nation.

SB 1063 builds upon the existing gender-based amendments to Labor Code section 1197.5 which were brought on by California’s Fair Pay Act in 2015.

SB 1063: Understanding the Wage Equality Act of 2016

SB 1063 Offers New Pay Equity Expansions for Californians

The Wage Equality Act of 2016 extends the same Fair Pay Act (SB 358) provisions to pay differentials relating to a worker’s ethnicity and race. Under the new law, California employers would be barred from paying their employees a wage rate less than the rate paid to workers who are a different race or ethnicity for “substantially similar work” unless an employer can prove the different wage is due to one or more specific circumstances.

Similar to the Fair Pay Act, SB 1063 will require a California employer to demonstrate that these specific factors are:

  1. not derived from a race or ethnicity-based differential in pay;
  2. job-related to the position at issue; and
  3. consistent with a business necessity.

Too Many California Workers Suffer from Unfair Pay Due to Race and Ethnicity

While California has long been applauded for its diversity, workers in the state still face a wage gap because of their ethnicity or race. Not only that, but California’s Equal Pay Act has also failed to include these protections since its enactment 65 years ago.

Backers of SB 1063 say that gender isn’t the only thing to consider when discussing the prevalent pay gap problem, but that pay inequality based on race and ethnicity is also a large issue of which both employers and employees should be aware. The bill’s sponsor said that eradicating the race and ethnicity pay gap is the “next logical step” when it comes to equal pay.

Earlier this year, the National Women’s Law Center found that African American women make just 83 cents for every dollar that Caucasian women make and Latina’s receive just 57 cents for every dollar that Caucasian women earn. Men also face pay inequality. In fact, African American men make just 75 cents for every dollar that Caucasian men earn in the California workplace.

SB 1063 will help combat the ongoing issue of pay inequality, and allow California to take even more steps in setting a national standard that ensures everyone – regardless of their race or ethnicity – is paid a fair wage.

California SB 1063: Resources for Further Reading

  • Bill Text: SB-1063 Conditions of employment: wage differential: race or ethnicity.
  • California’s New Equal Pay Legislation Goes Beyond Sex to Incorporate Race and Ethnicity
  • Senator Isadore Hall Introduces Legislation to Create The Strongest Wage Equality Law in the Nation
  • Wage Gap Costs Women More Than $430,000 Over a Career, NWLC Analysis Shows

No one should be denied an equal wage for an equal day’s work simply because of their race or ethnic background. If you feel your California employer is violating equal pay laws, contact the workplace discrimination attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation right away.