What is substantially similar work under the Fair Pay Act?

Whether a situation violates the California Fair Pay Act hinges on whether you and a counterpart do substantially similar work.

According to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, the Fair Pay Act requires that workers doing substantially similar work receive the same pay. You may have a claim if you feel your pay is lower in a situation due to your race, sex or ethnicity.


Substantially similar work refers to several different aspects of a job. It fits the definition if it involves using similar skills and effort. You also should have similar responsibilities and working conditions.

For example, someone working out in the field, plowing and planting crops would not have substantially similar work to someone working the office, answering phone calls and using the computer. The reason is the skills and working conditions are obviously different.

Further definition

While the example may be easy to see how the jobs are different, there are some situations where jobs may seem similar but still do not represent substantially similar work under the Fair Pay Act.

For example, if you and a co-worker both work in an office setting, then you have the same working conditions. However, if you handle accounting and your co-worker does simple filing jobs, then the skills, effort and responsibility are different.

The skills you need for the job must be similar in training and education. You both need to have the same level of responsibility, meaning that your accountability is the same. You also need to both have to exert a similar amount of physical or mental energy to do your job.