Both men and women can work similar jobs in California and perform similar job tasks. Therefore, it seems like it would be common sense that both men and women in such situations would earn a similar income. However, for many years this has not been the case. While women are slowly catching up, many employers pay women a lower income or do not offer them the same opportunities as men. However, this is sex discrimination and it has been illegal for many years under the Equal Pay Act.
This law requires that employers pay people who perform substantially similar work to be paid equally. Substantially similar work means work that involves similar skills, effort and responsibilities. If women are paid less than men who perform substantially similar work, the employer must provide a bona fide factor other than the fact that they are women for why they pay them less. These include differences in education, training, experience or other factors directly related to the job requirements.
If the employer cannot provide a bona fide reason for their actions, then they may be required to compensate the employee. This compensation can include back pay for the difference between what they pay men and women. This back pay can include more than just the wages, it can also include fringe benefits that the women may not receive such as stock options or bonuses. So, it is important that the employees look at all different forms of compensation and not just wages.
While the Equal Pay Act has been the law in California for years, many women are still paid less than men for doing similar work. Sometimes it is difficult to know what others within the company are making though, and employers will try to characterize similar jobs differently in attempts to pay them less. Experienced attorneys understand the various ways employers may try to keep paying women less than men and may be a useful resource.