Equal Pay Act

California’s Equal Pay Act, found in the California Labor Code, prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees a lower wage than employees of a different sex, race, or ethnicity for work that is substantially similar when taking into account a combination of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.

An employer may have a legitimate reason to pay employees differently for substantially similar work by proving that the difference is because of seniority, merit, that earnings are based on production, or for another factor that is legal such as education, training, or experience.


An employer may not justify the difference in pay between employees of different sexes, races, or ethnicities based on the employee’s prior salary. Employers also may not ask applicants to share their salary from prior employment. However, an employer cannot prevent employees from telling others about their own compensation and cannot retaliate against employees for asserting their rights under California’s Equal Pay Act or for encouraging or helping others assert their rights.


Employees typically only have two years to file a claim for violations of California’s Equal Pay Act (three years if the violation is willful). Each paycheck counts as a violation. This means that if you wait too long, you may not be able to recover damages for the entire time that you were paid less for substantially similar work.

If you think that you are being paid less than someone of a different sex, race or ethnicity, for substantially similar work, please contact The Schlehr Law Firm.

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