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California has narrowest wage gap in the United States

Have you experienced pay inequality? California lawmakers have spent decades working to minimize the gender wage gap. In 2018, California women made 89 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made. While there is still room for improvement, this is the narrowest wage gap in the country.

A big reason for that is the efforts of lawmakers to minimize the gender wage gap. Among those is the California Equal Pay act. The California Equal Pay Act celebrates its 70th birthday in 2019 and has undergone many changes through the years.

As recently as 2015, former governor Jerry Brown made it more difficult for employers to use loopholes through tenure and merit-based systems by requiring equal pay for all employees performing similar work. Brown later added all races and ethnicities as protected classes and made it illegal to prevent employees from discussing their wages with each other.

Arguably the biggest change was the wording of “equal” to “substantially similar” for jobs performed by two workers. That made it more difficult to deny equal pay to someone because of their gender, race or ethnicity.

What do I need for a claim?

Anyone who feels they are a victim of unequal pay due to their gender, race or ethnicity need to prove that they earn less than someone who does substantially similar work. The onus then falls on the employer to explain why that person earns less. It does not matter if the job titles for the workers differ if the work performed is similar enough.

A worker may only go back two to three years to recover lost wages depending on the circumstances, so delaying filing a claim isn’t in your best interest.

Closing the gap

When the California Equal Pay Act was enacted years ago, it was a step in the right direction. There has been time over the last 70 years to revise and ensure that it protects as many workers as possible. Progress is sometimes incremental but the impact these recent changes can have is meaningful. As more classes of workers become protected over time, we continue to move towards closing the wage gap.

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