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California’s New Labor Laws: The Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act

Running a successful business demands more than just profits—it requires adherence to the legal framework that governs the relationship between employers and employees. In California, recent amendments to labor laws, effective since January 2024, have placed a renewed emphasis on ensuring equality in pay and safeguarding against retaliation. Senate bill (“SB”) 497, also known as The Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act, mandates a closer scrutiny of these regulations by employers to ensure compliance.

Summary of key provisions of the amended SB 497 include:

1.        Rebuttable Presumption for Retaliation Claims and Equal Pay Violations: The bill establishes a rebuttable presumption in favor of an employee's claim if an employer takes any action prohibited (e.g. discharging an employee, discriminating, retaliating or taking any adverse action) within 90 days of the employee engaging in activity to enforce specified Labor Code provisions or exercising the employee’s rights under the Equal Pay Act as specified within the applicable provisions.

2.        Civil Penalties: The bill modifies existing law to establish that employers may face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per employee for each violation, in addition to other remedies. This penalty would be awarded to the retaliated employee. Additionally, it mandates that the Labor Commissioner consider the nature and seriousness of the violation when assessing penalties.

Now, an employee who faces retaliation—be it a disciplinary action, denial of promotion, termination, or demotion—within 90 days of lodging a complaint against their employer, has an advantage over the employer, as SB 497 strengthened protections and imposed stricter penalties on employers. While avoiding such issues is paramount for employers, having a solid defense strategy is essential.

ACI Law Group, with its extensive experience and nuanced interpretation of the law, is well-equipped to help companies navigate interpretation of complex laws. Through the advocacy of ACI Law Group's professional legal representatives, businesses can uphold their legal obligations, protect their interests, and foster a safe and successful work environment.

ACI Law Group, PC

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