California requires employers to provide equal pay to women and men doing similar work.
Lawmakers toughened the law last January, with the California Fair Pay Act. According to the law, equal pay is required for women and men who do "substantially similar work" -- regardless of how their jobs are formally described. Under the law, employers sued by workers have to show wage differences are due to factors other than sex and are not due to discrimination.
Data from the United States Census Bureau and Department of Labor shows nationally, women are making $0.77 to $0.78 to every dollar men make.
Deborah Dixon, President of The Lawyers Club of San Diego fights for equal pay for women. She said, in 2014, in San Diego County, women made $0.80 cents to every dollar men made.
“This wage gaps covers all the spectrum of women,” Dixon said. “So, the more educated the woman the more likely she will be paid lower than her male colleagues. This amounts to women losing somewhere between $1.2 -2 million over their lifetime.”
Dixon said just because there's a new law, doesn't mean differences in pay will go away completely.
Two long-time employees are suing General Atomics, a defense contractor, was founded in San Diego in 1955. In their complaints, the women say they are being treated unfairly because they're female. They are represented by attorney, Josh Gruenberg.
Click here to read their complaints.
One of the plaintiffs is Maria Campbell.
“I was particularly interested in the drone building and its infancy at that point; it was a very exciting time to be there” she said.
Campbell started working with General Atomics 18 years ago as a pricing analyst. “I run the department that does the cost proposals for all of our efforts for domestic and for military sales.”
Cyndra Flanagin has been with General Atomics 20 years. “I started as a contracts administrator and rose in responsibility to pricing manager and then contracts and pricing manager and finally director of contracts and pricing,” she said. “I was the first female director in the company.”
Nearly 3 years ago, Flanagin said she wanted a newly created position, with the title, Vice-President.
Flanagin said, “I wasn't even given an opportunity to compete for it. Nobody looked at my resume and gave me an opportunity to compete for it. And therefore I wasn't given a fair opportunity.”
Both women said they believed in their work and the company they worked for. But, over time, say they felt they weren't getting the promotions or the salaries they deserved, simply because they were women.
“Men are being promoted over women, men who have less experience with no real rationale,” Campbell said. “No need for them to explain, it's just occurring.” Campbell and Flanagin said the company paid them less than "many male employees" for doing the same type of work. Their claim is based on discussions with coworkers, which they hope to prove during the legal process.
General Atomics' denied a request for an interview.
The company's lawyer sent NBC 7 Investigates an email stating, it is "fully aware of the allegations being made by Cyndra Flanagin and Maria Campbell. The company believes these allegations are wholly without merit and it looks forward to presenting the accurate facts and resolving this matter in a court of law."
Click here to read the company’s response to the complaints.
Both women continue to work for General Atomics and say they hope things will change.
“I'm obviously very concerned with the repercussions that this will have,” Campbell said. “Do I expect to have a job when it's all over. Not necessarily. But the situation was untenable the way that it was. It was not something I was going to survive and maintain my sanity.”