Sacramento Bee: On equal pay, you can’t fix what you can’t see

April 10, 2018

By Hannah-Beth Jackson And Jessica Stender

Special to The Sacramento Bee

California has made significant progress on equal pay in recent years, but it’s not enough. The wage gap stubbornly persists for women and people of color across the state, as we mark Equal Pay Day on Tuesday.

When pay disparities go undetected, it becomes even more difficult to close the gap. In fact, many employers themselves are unaware of discrepancies in their own companies. So the Obama administration introduced a new rule requiring large employers to report pay data broken down by gender, race and ethnicity, starting this year.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration blocked implementation of this rule, erecting a wall in the middle of our nation’s path toward equal pay. Senate Bill 1284 is a direct response to this setback.

This bill would require that California companies with 100 or more employees submit to the Department of Industrial Relations an annual report on what they pay their workers — broken down by gender, race, ethnicity and job category.

This report, available to state enforcement agencies but not to the general public, would empower employers to investigate and fix pay disparities that are not justified by legitimate factors, such as differences in qualifications. The bill would also ensure that California can more effectively and proactively enforce its equal pay laws.

Even with the passage of the Fair Pay Act in 2016, California women continue to lose an estimated $78.6 billion every year due to the wage gap. White women working full-time are only paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to a man; for women of color, the gap is much worse. This pay discrimination harms children, families, communities and the overall economy. Unequal pay not only deprives families of basic necessities, but it also prevents women and people of color from being able to build financial security.

We can’t fix what we can’t see, and to address California’s persistent pay disparity problem, we must first discover where it exists. On Equal Pay Day — the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year — advocates across the country are rallying and delivering petitions to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission urging action on the Obama rule.

We urge legislators to support SB 1284 to ensure California can continue leading the way on equal pay.