Unequal pay involves both how you are treated and how you were paid by your employer. If you think your employer is paying male or White employees more than it is paying you for doing substantially similar work, you could be right.
California has one of the strictest equal pay laws in the country. The California Equal Pay Act combats unequal pay by:
The CEPA applies to employers of any size. You need only show that you were paid less for performing substantially similar work than any single employee of a different gender, race, or ethnicity, in any of your employer’s locations. Work is substantially similar when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions. If you can make that showing, your employer then bears the burden of proving that the pay disparity is based on either: as a seniority system, a merit system, or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; that the factor is not based on or derived from a gender-based differential; that the factor is applied reasonably; and that it accounts for the entire wage differential.
The definition of wages is broad and includes all forms of compensation, including hourly pay or salary; deferred compensation, including profit sharing plans; expense accounts and gasoline allowances, uniform cleaning allowances, and similar reimbursements and other allowances; use of a company car; bonuses; vacation and holiday pay; premium pay for working weekends and holidays; and fringe benefits such as medical insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits.
Your employer is required to provide you with the pay scale for your job position, meaning the salary or hourly wage range that your employer reasonably expects to pay for the position.
If your employer violated the CEPA, you can recover unpaid wages, interest, liquidated damages (which doubles the amount of unpaid wages), and attorney’s fees and costs. You need not prove that the pay differential exists because of intentional discrimination. But if there is proof of intentional discrimination, you might also be able to recover emotional distress damages and punitive damages.