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Will California's new anti-discrimination laws be effective?

California has enacted new wage discrimination laws. The state legislature designed the anti-discrimination rules to ensure that racial and ethnic minorities receive equal pay. The laws build upon a 2015 provision that prevents gender-based wage discrimination.

According to the new law, if you're an African-American working as a crane operator, your employer needs to pay you the same amount as Caucasian and Hispanic workers doing the same job. Still, the efficacy of both the gender-related and race-related legislation remains unclear.

"Substantially similar" language needs testing in court

Lawyers have yet to test the new laws in court. One piece of language that lawyers will need to test and on which legal precedence will need to be set is the wording "substantially similar" as it relates to equal pay. For example, is a 10 percent wage gap sufficient to satisfy the requirements, or do wages need to be within 2 percent of each other? At this point, we just don't know.

In a market-based financial economy, wage gaps will naturally show up among laborers regardless of whether they are a specific gender, race or ethnicity. Sometimes a wage gap happens when a worker doesn't ask for what he or she can rightfully receive. That said, there are many situations where race and gender discrimination are in fact the issue.

Judges need to develop their own sense of the law, and how to test for when wage discrimination has actually occurred. This will only happen after lawyers try a sufficient number of wage discrimination cases under the new laws.

Are you receiving less pay than your co-workers?

The new wage discrimination laws reflect the fact that many female workers, and many ethnic and racial minorities, are receiving unfair wages currently. The law, however, applies to any and all races, and any and all genders. If you think you're being paid unfairly compared to your co-workers, you might be able to pursue an employment law claim for restitution and justice in court.

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