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Steps business owners can take to avoid equal pay charges

Equal pay for women is one of the hottest issues facing businesses across the country. The question was fueled over the past few months by a lawsuit filed by members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, which claims the U.S. Soccer Federation pays the men’s national team more.

The team's lawsuit also claims gender-based discrimination over training facilities, travel conditions and unequal promotion of their games. A mediator will hear the case.

California leads the way in equal pay laws

The National Partnership for Women & Families advocacy group says the Golden State has some of the strongest equal pay laws in the nation after adopting the California Equal Pay Act, which took effect in 2016. Women, who make up 41% of the workforce, earn 89 cents for every dollar men make while the national average is 80 cents. Other advocates say the state must do more to reduce the wage gap even further.

Businesses can take steps to avoid wage gaps

Employers who implement fair compensation practices can often avoid litigation by following these steps:

  • Remove salary history from the recruitment process: California has banned the practice of asking an applicant about his or her pay history.
  • Review compensation practices: Make sure any differences in pay are over non-discriminatory factors such as education and experience, and correct disparities that exist.
  • Provide pay scales: This is also the law in California for candidates who make a “reasonable request” about compensation levels. Giving them a salary range shows transparency and can protect businesses from discrimination complaints as well as fostering a culture of fairness.
  • Ban online searches: Companies can protect themselves by not searching for any applicant’s salary information.
  • Train hiring managers to ask the right questions: It is in the company’s best interest to find out whether a candidate’s salary demands fit into the organization’s pay scale. Asking candidates about their expectations without inquiring about past compensation can be an appropriate option for hiring managers.

Developing a productive and satisfied workforce

Equal pay laws are meant to ensure that people who do the same job and have the same experience are paid the same. Complaints can arise when companies are unaware of the complicated laws in effect or have not updated their hiring practices. Working with an experienced employment law attorney can identify areas where businesses may be at risk and how to correct policies and practices that leave them legally vulnerable.

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