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Yes, You Can Ask Your Boss How Much Your Male Counterparts Make.

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Over the last few weeks I have had multiple meetings, and discussions at social gatherings, with women who have been surprised to learn that under the California Equal Pay Act they are allowed, and supported, to ask their superiors what their male counterparts make in income, benefits, and equity.

In 2017, The Equal Pay Act was amended, specifically with this type of pro-active conversation in mind. The legislature wants to encourage a two-way conversation with employers and its employees about equal pay. As an attorney that works in this area of law, I can tell you that in many cases men are being paid in a grossly disproportionate way to women, in particular, with equity grants and benefits. This practice occurs regularly in the Bay Area with our active start up community.

The Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees wage rates that are less than what it pays employees of the opposite sex, or of another race, or of another ethnicity for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.

What this means, is not only can you ask about what men’s pay is in the exact same position, you can also ask about the pay of men in “similar working conditions.” I have worked with clients to get information about similarly situated executive compensation in this vein. It is hard to ask for comparable salaries when your position is unique, for instance, a Senior Vice President of Marketing, or similar. Under the Equal Pay Action, “substantially similar has been defined as, “work that is mostly similar in skill, effort, responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions. Skill refers to the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job.”

Here is the kicker to all of this, if you ask for information regarding comparable male salaries (and bonuses and benefits), and they refuse to tell you, you have an action against them for discrimination under this Act. In addition, if you suffer from any negative harm at work, i.e. a demotion, passed over for a promotion, or termination, you are also protected under the Act and can sue for lost wages, attorney’s fees, and emotional distress.

So ladies, let’s move things forward! If you suspect your employer is playing favorites with male employees, with equity, salary or other, be emboldened by the law. Ask ask ask, and get paid what you deserve!

Written by Claire Cochran, Founder & Principal 

Please keep in mind that this article is a general overview and is in no way applicable to all matters, as each client and case is unique; nor is it a guarantee of service or results.