Governor Signs Jackson Bill to Close the Wage Gap Women Face at Work
SB 358 Will Be the Strongest Equal Pay Law in the Nation and Could Serve as a Template for Other States to Follow
RICHMOND – Today, in a ceremony held at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park, flanked by women and girls of all ages, as well as other legislators and supporters, Governor Jerry Brown signed the strongest equal pay law in the country, Senate Bill 358 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).
SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act, will ensure that women are paid equally for work that is substantially similar to the work of their male colleagues, and do not face retaliation if they discuss or ask how much their male colleagues are paid. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2016.
“This is a momentous day for California, and it is long overdue. I want to thank the Governor for his support and for signing this bill into law. Equal pay isn’t just the right thing for women, it’s the right thing for our economy and for California. Families rely on women’s income more than ever before. Because of the wage gap, our state and families are missing out on $33.6 billion dollars a year, “ said Jackson. “That money could be flowing into families’ pocketbooks, into our businesses and our economy. After years of dealing with a persistent wage gap, and an equal pay law that has been on the books since 1949 but that is not as strong as it should be, the time has come for women’s paychecks to finally reflect their hard work and true value. Today, California leads the nation in showing how it can be done.”
Aileen Rizo, a Fresno resident and math consultant at the Fresno County Office of Education, has testified numerous times in support of the bill. She has a complaint pending in court over pay inequity she discovered while working at the Fresno County Office of Education in 2012. She discovered a male colleague was being paid $12,000 more per year for the same work, even though he was hired four years after she was, and had less experience, education and seniority. The court will soon decide whether Rizo’s case goes to trial. For more about her story, go to http://www.equalpay.me/
“This bill will give women more tools to fight pay discrimination, and close loopholes that hold women back,” said Rizo.
Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, co-sponsor of the bill, applauded today’s historic signing of the bill. “Because the California Fair Pay Act was signed today, more women in this state will be paid what they have earned. It is about fairness for workers; it is about good business; and it is about time,” Farrell stated. “Thank you to Senator Jackson, Governor Brown and all the hardworking women of California who inspired this bill, which is the strongest equal pay law in the country.”
“All too often, women don’t know they’re being paid less than their male counterparts and lack access to the information they need to assert their right to receive equal pay for substantially similar work. By closing loopholes in California’s equal pay law and expanding protections against retaliation, the Fair Pay Act will encourage more women to ask questions and demand fair compensation,” said Jennifer Reisch, legal director for Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization and co-sponsor of the bill.
Patricia Arquette, who called for wage equality for women as she accepted her Academy Award for the movie Boyhood earlier this year and staunchly supported the bill, celebrated its signing today. “The California Fair Pay Act received bipartisan support because women support families and drive our economy. They also have tremendous political power,” Arquette said. “I thank Governor Brown, Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, Equal Rights Advocates, and everyone who ensured the passage of this bill. It is a critical step toward ensuring that women in California are seen and valued as equals.”
As the bill moved through the Legislature, it had broad and bipartisan support, passing out of the Senate on a final, unanimous 40-0 vote. The bill also had the support of dozens of organizations, including a broad spectrum of labor groups, women’s and legal advocacy organizations, and local government. Although they were initially opposed, the bill also had the support of the California Chamber of Commerce and was unopposed by the California business community. “Equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, shouldn't be an issue in California,” said Allan Zaremberg, the President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud the Governor and a bi partisan vote in the legislature for establishing this fundamental tenet in statute and providing guidance to employers to determine appropriate wages for non-gender related reasons that allow employers to effectively manage their workforce.”
The bill would go further than the federal Equal Pay Act in a number of ways:
- It would prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss or ask about pay at work.
- It would allow employees to challenge pay discrimination based on wages paid to other workers at different worksites of the same employer. For example, a female grocery store clerk who works at a store could challenge higher wages being made by male grocery store clerks at a store owned by the same employer just a few miles away.
- Employees could challenge pay discrimination based on wages paid to those doing substantially similar work. For example, a female housekeeper who cleans rooms in a hotel could challenge the higher wages being paid to a male janitor who cleans the lobby and banquet halls.
- It would require employers to show that differences in wages are due to factors other than gender, that the factor is job-related and reasonable, and that these factors – rather than discrimination – account for the difference in pay. For example, if a male chef is making more money than a female chef because he works weekend shifts, the employer would have to show that the weekend shifts are busier and require more work and account for the difference in wages. In addition, the employer would have to prove that the weekend shift position was open to all chefs, and that the employer hired the male chef because he was the most qualified or willing to work the shifts.
To enforce her equal rights under SB 358, an employee will be able to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or file a civil complaint directly in Superior Court.
In 2013, a woman in California working full-time made a median 84 cents to every dollar a man earned, according to the Equal Rights Advocates. The gap is significantly greater for women of color. Latinas in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white man makes, the most significant Latina wage gap in the nation. African-American women are only paid 64 cents on the dollar. As a group, women who are employed full-time in California lose approximately $33.6 billion every year due to the wage gap.
Jackson is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. SB 358 was one of the bills prioritized by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus this year as part of a package entitled, “A Stronger California: Securing Economic Opportunity for All Women,” designed to advance women’s economic opportunities as the state rebounds from the economic downturn.
Brown’s support for the bill was no surprise. In August, on the 95th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Nancy McFadden, executive secretary for legislation, appointments and policy for Governor Jerry Brown, tweeted, “Breaking w/convention on #WomensEqualityDay to announce @JerryBrownGov will sign CA Fair Pay Act when it reaches his desk. #EqualPay #SB358.”
Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
Contact: Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4019 or firstname.lastname@example.org