Jackson's Bill to Close the Wage Gap Women Face at Work Heads to the Governor

September 01, 2015

SACRAMENTO – A bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to close the wage gap that women face at work cleared its final hurdle in the Legislature today, passing off the Senate floor on a bipartisan, 39-0 vote. The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk just a few days after his office took the unusual step of announcing the Governor’s support for the bill on Twitter.  

Watch the video of Senator Jackson presenting the bill on the Senate floor today: http://youtu.be/2JI4Bik21W8

Jackson’s Senate Bill 358, the California Fair Pay Act, would 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. When signed into law, it would be the strongest equal pay law in the nation.

On Wednesday, Women’s Equality Day, which marked 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.”

At a press conference recently, Jackson was joined by Democratic and Republican members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, as well as equal rights advocates and the California Chamber of Commerce in urging support for the bill. Watch the press conference here: sd19.senate.ca.gov

“This is a momentous day for California, and it is long overdue. I’m very pleased to see this bill clear its final hurdle in the Legislature and head to the Governor’s desk. 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 is now for women’s paychecks to finally reflect their hard work and true value. It is time that we fix the wage gap that women face at work and lead 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.

“Women are critical to building a strong and vibrant economy in this state and have played a pivotal role in the economic recovery of the past few years. They are also breadwinners in two-thirds of families with children. Yet women, especially women of color and mothers, continue to lose precious income to a pervasive, gender-based wage gap. SB 358 will make California’s equal pay law clearer, stronger, and more effective,” said Jennifer Reisch, legal director for Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization and co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill has 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 now has the support of the California Chamber of Commerce and is unopposed by the California business community.

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.

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 is 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.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.