A recent investigation of Oracle, a major employer in Redwood City, has raised concerns of wage discrimination.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the U.S. Labor Department is accusing Oracle of engaging in wage discrimination by paying white male employees more than Asian, African American, and white female employees. The investigation focused on Oracle’s Redwood City headquarters, which employs more than 7,000 of the technology company’s 45,000 employees.
At the same time, the investigation determined that Oracle favored Asian employees in hiring. The Labor Department found that Oracle recruited heavily from India when it filled product development and technical positions. While Asians were more likely to be hired for those positions than white job applicants, Asian employees were allegedly paid less than white workers who had comparable seniority and job duties
The Labor Department filed a lawsuit to cancel Oracle’s federal contracts on the ground that Oracle violated contract terms that prohibit employment discrimination. The lawsuit also seeks compensation for employees and job applicants who were the victims of wage discrimination.
The Labor Department is seeking to compel Oracle to produce all relevant payroll records, hiring records, and discrimination complaints made by its employees. Since the suit against Oracle was commenced just a day before President Obama left office it is not yet clear whether the election result will affect the Labor Department’s position.
Federal and California law prohibit an employer from considering race, gender, or nationality when setting pay. Paying one employee (or one group of employees) less than another because of race, sex, or nationality is wage discrimination.
Census Bureau figures in 2015 showed that female employees in California were paid 84% of the wages paid to male employees for comparable work. San Francisco wage discrimination lawyers sometimes use the phrase “disparate pay” to describe that discriminatory difference in wages.
Disparate pay refers to paying different wages to employees who have the same job duties, the same amount of seniority, and similar histories of performance. When otherwise similar employees are of a different race or gender, wage discrimination is the most likely explanation for disparate pay.
Until recently, some courts insisted that disparate pay between two jobs could establish wage discrimination only if the two jobs were identical and were filled by equally qualified employees of equal seniority. Those rulings provided no justice to women who were paid less than men even though female employees were doing work that was just as difficult and required the same level of responsibility as the jobs filled by male employees.
In 2015, the California legislature targeted wage discrimination against female employees by enacting one of the toughest pay equity laws in the nation. The law, which took effect in 2016, requires California employers to pay the same wages to male and female employees who perform substantially similar work.
“Substantially similar work” refers to similarities in skill, effort, and responsibility required to perform the job. It also refers to working under similar conditions. The new law makes it more difficult for employers to justify unequal pay between men and women.
Whether it is based on race, gender, or national origin, wage discrimination in the workplace is unlawful. Unfortunately, federal and state agencies have limited ability to police all the California employers who violate laws that prohibit wage discrimination. While the Labor Department instituted a lawsuit against Oracle, most other California employers who engage in wage discrimination fly under the radar of federal and state agencies.
At San Francisco’s Minnis & Smallets, we are available to evaluate concerns about wage discrimination on the basis of gender, race, or national origin. Our attorneys have substantial experience helping employees obtain a remedy for disparate pay and all other issues of unequal compensation based on race or sex discrimination. If you have questions regarding wage discrimination call us at 1-415-551-0885 or submit our online contact form.
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