Employees are often reluctant to report discrimination or harassment out of fear of retaliation. Employers realize their staff depends on their wages, and losing even one paycheck could impoverish them. Furthermore, the worker was responsible for proving the company engaged in retaliatory practices.
California has laws that protect employees from workplace retaliation. However, they’ve strengthened their current laws by enacting CA SB497.
Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act
Employers often don’t like their employees discussing wages amongst themselves. There are likely several reasons, but one of the main ones is that wage discussion could uncover an unfair pay structure.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act into law on October 8, 2023. It amends sections 98.6, 1102.5 and 1197.5 of the California Labor Code to protect employees from being retaliated against for disclosing their wages, discussing wages with co-workers or asking about their compensation.
The new law also lessens the burden of proof for the employee claiming retaliation. It introduces a rebuttable presumption in favor of the employee if the employer engages in adverse action within 90 days of the protected activity. It is up to the employer to prove otherwise.
Furthermore, under the old statute, any employer who violates the law will be fined up to $10,000 per violation. The new law amends that to $10,000 per employee for each violation.
The Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act makes it easier for employees to seek justice when they believe they have been unfairly treated for discussing or questioning their pay. It also requires greater transparency in a company’s dealings with an employee. Any perceived adverse action on the employer’s part within 90 days of the employee engaging in a protected activity could be considered retaliation. Therefore, employers need to have clear and consistent employment practices.