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Understanding the California Fair Pay Act

On Behalf of | Aug 13, 2021 | Employment Law

Our state is one of the states that has an equal pay law. It is the California Equal Pay Act, which is contained in California Labor Code, Section 1197.5 and 432.3. Generally, the CEPA mandates that workers be paid the same for equal work, regardless of their gender. But, over the past decade or so, the CEPA has undergone some changes.

California Fair Pay Act

In 2015, the governor signed the California Fair Pay Act. This law was designed to strengthen CEPA because regulators did not believe the original text of the CEPA had enough of an effect on gender-based pay parity. Among many changes, a significant change is that the law eliminated the need for workers to only look at employees in their “same establishment,” which allowed employees to look outside their direct place of employment. This meant that employers can no long simply put most of their female employees at one location and pay them differently than male employees at a different location.

Substantially similar work

In addition, the CFPA opened the definition of “substantially similar work” to encompass all of one’s responsibilities, skill and effort. Again, this reduced an employer’s ability to “game” the system by using narrow work definitions to justify female pay disparities when one’s actual responsibilities were the same as their male counterparts.


Another important change that the CFPA made was to explicitly make retaliation against an employee that was looking to enforce pay parity illegal. This stopped employers from changing employee positions or firing them to avoid liability.

Other important changes

CFPA also made it illegal for employers to prohibit their workers from discussing their pay, which is also illegal for most employers under federal law. It extended the number of years employers must maintain their employment and wage records from two years to three years, which makes it easier for employees to prove sex-based pay disparity.

Race and ethnicity added

In 2017, race and ethnicity were added as protected categories, in addition to sex. This meant that pay parity must be across not just sex lines, but also race and ethnicity. This means that for those in Los Angeles, California, that feel they are not being paid equally, based on their sex, race or ethnicity, they likely have a legal recourse now.