California made history in 2015 with passage of the California Fair Pay Act, which required employers in California to implement wage parity for men and women doing “substantially similar” work.  In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed two laws that expand the California Fair Pay Act’s coverage to also include race and ethnicity.  These new provisions go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Employers in California will need to again review employee salaries and their payment rates for different positions, to ensure there are no differences in compensation for substantially similar jobs based on gender, race, or ethnicity.  Employers may of course pay workers differently, so long as the wage differential is 100% based on specific, reasonably applied factors, such as:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures quality or quantity of production; or,
  • A bona fide factor other than sex, race, or ethnicity, which is job related and consistent with business necessity (for example, a college degree or completion of certain training courses)
The California Fair Pay Act was also amended to state that “prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation,” and cannot be considered a “bona fide factor.”  This new law did not go so far as to prohibit employers from asking applicants about prior salaries, but employers should think critically about whether to continue asking for this information as part of recruitment.

Employers bear the burden in this instance to justify any wage differentials, so criteria should be written and universally applied across all positions at the company.

Are you Aware of the New Bathroom Bill?

California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on September 29, 2016, that requires all single-stall toilets in California to be designated as gender-neutral.  This new law will go into effect on March 1, 2017, and purports to be the most inclusive restroom-access law in the United States.

The new law requires all businesses and public buildings to designate single-occupancy restrooms – those with a single toilet or urinal, designed to be occupied only by one person at a time – as gender neutral, rather than specifically for men or women.  The law was designed to address the needs of transgender individuals, as well as parents with infants and children or other individuals requiring assistance.  This law builds upon a 2013 California law, AB 1732, which allows students to join sports team and use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity, rather than biological sex.

The law takes effect March 1, to give businesses time to change restroom signs.  Keep in mind that there are federal and California ADA requirements for bathroom signage, which continue to be in effect.