Governor Edmund Brown Jr. signed the bipartisan California Fair Pay Act on Oct. 6. With his signature, California businesses are now required to equally pay their staff, regardless of gender, for substantially similar work. The act also prohibits retaliation against employees who invoked their rights, protects employees who discusses wages and allows employees to claim based on salaries at different workplaces.
“Sixty-six years after passage of the California Equal Pay Act, many women still earn less money than men doing the same or similar work. This bill is another step toward closing the persistent wage gap between men and women,” the governor said in a statement.
The equal pay act by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is among the strongest in the nation. Brown’s signing of the legislature was lauded by Republicans and Democrats, as well as Oscar-winning actress and advocate for wage equality Patricia Arquette.
“Because of the wage gap, our state and families are missing out on $33.6 billion dollars a year. 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,” Senator Jackson said.
Arquette said Brown’s signing of the bill is a critical step toward ensuring that women in California are seen and valued as equals. She thanked governor Brown and Senator Jackson for the passage of the bill.
U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein stressed that women in California earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by men. This totals into a wage gap to nearly $40 billion each year in lost wages in California. “The bill signed today by Governor Brown will protect women from retaliation if they ask how their pay compares to their counterparts and require employers to justify higher wages for men who perform the same jobs as women. This is a big step to improve the economic security of California families,” Feinstein said.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the enactment of the Fair Act will provide powerful new tool to secure women of equal pay. “We know when women succeed, America succeeds,” Pelosi said.
Senate Republican leader Jean Fuller said she is proud to support the enactment of the Fair Act. “This law will help narrow that inequality and make California’s workforce even stronger and more effective,” Fuller said.
However, labor lawyers expressed concerns that the passage of the law will result to more employee-employer litigations and big businesses moving out of California. “The Fair Act further weakens the business climate in California,” attorney J. Al Latham Jr told the Los Angeles Times.
Geoff DeBoskey shared the same opinion, saying the law would drive some businesses out of California. Businesses will “move operations and grow elsewhere. If an employer is going to build a new call center, they are just not going to build that in California,” DeBoskey told LA Times.