As people get ready to ring in 2016, the lawyers who represent employees in California have extra incentive to celebrate. That’s because California’s Fair Pay Act – the most demanding equal pay law in the country – takes effect January 1st.

We’ve written about this new law repeatedly.

Why do we write about this so often? Is it because we struggle to come up with new topics to blog about? No way! It’s because the Fair Pay Act has the potential to be a game changer.

Copyright: iofoto / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: iofoto / 123RF Stock Photo

First, there are the vague new standards it imposes (e.g. equal pay for “substantially similar” work). Second, you have the difficulty of quantifying factors such as skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. Third, the Fair Pay Act puts burdens on the employer that are unprecedented (to prove that a wage differential is based on one or more legitimate factors, that the factors relied on are applied reasonably, and that those factors account for the entire disparity). Finally, a liquidated damages provision doubles any actual economic damages.

As with so many California employment laws, it pays to be proactive. In this case, that involves analyzing your payroll data for discrepancies and determining whether they can be justified. By involving counsel, employers can protect that analysis under the attorney-client privilege. But whatever you do, the clock is ticking.