California Legislature Passes Tough Equal Pay Bill

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By James Nash

Aug. 27 — California lawmakers Aug. 27 approved Senate Bill 358, legislation mandating equal pay for women that was described by the bill's author as the toughest such law in the U.S.

The Assembly voted 66-2 for the measure, which would require employers to pay men and women the same for “substantially similar” work, with exceptions for seniority, merit and productivity. The bill, which the Senate unanimously approved in July, also forbids employers from punishing employees for disclosing compensation to co-workers or for asking them to do likewise.

Parity remains a hot-button issue 52 years after the U.S. Equal Pay Act took effect. On average, women earn 78 percent as much as their male counterparts, the Labor Department estimated in April.

“Many loopholes make it nearly impossible to establish a successful claim,” Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, a Democrat representing the state's 58th District, said on the chamber floor. “Pay secrecy also contributes to the gender pay gap, because women cannot challenge pay discrimination if they do not know that they are being paid less than their male counterparts.”

The bill's author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), said the legislation is the nation's most stringent equal-pay measure. Women in California are paid 84 cents for every dollar a man makes, she said.

The bill now returns to the Senate for a second vote before going to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D). Nancy McFadden, a top aide to the governor, said on Twitter that Brown would sign the bill.

For more information, see Compensation and Benefits Library’s California Wage Payment Requirements chapter.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Nash in Los Angeles at jnash24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

Text of the bill is available at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=scrm-9zstm8.


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