Fighting for Women's Equality

ERA-Sponsored Fair Pay Act Clears Committee

April 22, 2015 | by

The California Fair Pay Act, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and a lead bill in the Stronger California Agenda, passed out of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee today. The vote was 4-0.

Senate Bill 358 would ensure that women are paid equally for work that is comparable or substantially similar to the work of their male colleagues, and do not face retaliation if they discuss or ask about pay at work. If signed into law, it would be the strongest equal pay law in the nation.

 “Promoting fair pay and eliminating the gap between the wages of women and men in California is more important than ever,” said ERA Legal Director Jennifer Reisch, who helped write the bill. “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.”

When the bill is amended next week, it would go further than current, federal gender-based discrimination law in a number of ways:

  • Prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss or ask about pay at work.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. As a group, women who are employed full-time in California lose approximately $33.6 billion every year due to the wage gap.

To learn more about SB 358, click here.

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