On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law the strongest equal pay legislation in the nation.
The Fair Pay Act, introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), was passed by the State Assembly and Senate this summer. It ensures that women receive equal pay for work that is the same or substantially similar to that done by men.
“This is a momentous day for California, and it is long overdue. I want to thank the governor for his support and for signing this bill into law. Equal pay isn’t just the right thing for women, it’s the right thing for our economy and for California,” said Sen. Jackson in a statement. “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 a year. The time has come for women’s paychecks to finally reflect their hard work and true value. Today, California leads the nation in showing how it can be done.”
The act provides legal protections to women being paid less than their male counterparts for doing work of “comparable worth.” For instance, a female hotel room cleaner can now take legal action if she’s being paid less than a male hotel janitor, since the work requires similar levels of experience and training. It also goes further than existing national and state equal pay legislation by requiring employers to prove that pay disparities are based on qualifications and not gender, and protecting from retaliation any woman who discusses wages with a coworker.
Said Jennifer Reisch, legal director for Equal Rights Advocates, a co-sponsor of the bill, “All too often, women don’t know they’re being paid less than their male counterparts and lack access to the information they need to assert their right to receive equal pay for substantially similar work. By closing loopholes in California’s equal pay law and expanding protections against retaliation, the Fair Pay Act will encourage more women to ask questions and demand fair compensation.”
Equal pay advocate and actor Patricia Arquette, who spoke out about pay inequity in Hollywood at the Oscars earlier this year, praised the act, calling it a “critical step toward ensuring that women in California are seen and valued as equals.” She added, “The California Fair Pay Act received bipartisan support because women support families and drive our economy. They also have tremendous political power.”
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