Last week, a California state court in San Francisco ruled that a California Equal Pay Act class action against Google Inc. has survived the pleading stage. The California Equal Pay Act currently requires equal pay for employees who perform “substantially similar work” when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility. The 2016 amendment to the Equal Pay Act also prohibits employers from relying on the employee’s prior salary to justify a sex-based difference in salary. Plaintiffs allege in their amended complaint that Google relies on gender stereotypes and has a company-wide policy of relying on former salary history in setting pay and assigning jobs. These allegations were critical to the court’s decision to allow the case to proceed as a class action.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) reinstated seventeen George W. Bush Era opinion letters which were issued in January 2009, but later withdrawn by the Obama Administration. Opinion letters are official guidance from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division that provide employers with detailed responses to fact-specific questions pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA).
In 2010, the DOL stopped issuing opinion letters and instead began issuing “administrative interpretations,” which offered a more general interpretation of the law rather than a response to specific questions posed by employers or employees.
California joins Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and several municipalities, including New York City and San Francisco, by banning inquiries into salary history. Aimed at combating wage disparity based on gender, the new law (AB 168), to be codified at Labor Code section 432.3, prohibits employers from seeking or relying upon salary history information.
Ban on Seeking Salary History Information
AB 168, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits employers from seeking salary history information about applicants for employment. Specifically, employers may not, orally or in writing, seek salary history information, which includes compensation and benefits. The new law also prohibits employers from seeking such information through agents such as headhunters or recruiters.
On June 8, 2017, plaintiffs Mayra Casas and Julio Fernandez (“Plaintiffs”) filed an unopposed motion seeking approval of a $12 million settlement reached against defendant Victoria’s Secret Stores, LLC (“Victoria’s Secret”) in a closely watched case challenging the legality of Victoria’s Secret’s “call-in” scheduling practices. The case, Casas v. Victoria’s Secret Stores, LLC, was pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals at the time the parties’ settled the case, and was one of many currently pending class action lawsuits challenging similar practices by retailers. As a result of the parties’ settlement, the ultimate question in Casas remains unanswered: Are employees who are required to call their employer to determine if they are required to show up for call-in shifts entitled to reporting time pay?