California’s Labor Commissioner, Julie A. Su, spoke at LimNexus’s Women@theTable event on October 4, 2016 regarding California’s new Fair Pay Act that took effect January 1, 2016. The audience enjoyed a rare opportunity for an open discussion about the law with the chief of the agency charged with enforcement.
The Fair Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying employees of different sex a different wage for “substantially similar work” when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions. The law has built-in exceptions to equal pay to account for differences in employees’ merit, seniority, production, education, and training. Ms. Su advised that employers must apply these factors reasonably and must account for the entire wage differential.
Ms. Su shared that the law is new and evolving, and that there are more questions than answers to complicated issues at this time. She acknowledged that wage differences are sometimes linked to implicit biases, or may be the result of a telling statistic that 57% of men negotiate their starting salary while only 7% of women do so. Ms. Su lauded proactive efforts by employers that are making efforts to remediate pay differences, and encouraged others to do the same.