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‘Equal Pay’ Jumps Another Hurdle

Sacramento, CA – Women are one step closer to getting equal pay for work that is substantially similar to the work of their male colleagues.

In a unanimous vote, the state senate passed SB 358, the California Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying employees wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for “similar work,” as opposed to the current standard of “equal work.”

The author of the bill and Chair of the California Women’s Legislative Caucus, Democrat Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, of Santa Barbara, is thrilled with the vote. She states, “This finally closes the gaping loophole in the equal pay bill that’s been on the books in California since 1949.  We all know that we haven’t seen equal pay for equal work…that’s substantially similar to our male counterparts.”

According to statistics shared by Jackson’s office, in 2013, a woman in California working fulltime made an average of 84 cents to every man’s dollar. The gap grows significantly in the state for minorities. Latinas make only 44 cents for every dollar a white man makes, which is the greatest  Latina wage gap in the nation. African-American women are only paid 64 cents on the dollar. That totals nearly $33.6 billion lost in wages every year, as a group, for full-time employed women in the state.

The bill also prevents any retaliation from employers if female employees discuss or ask how much their male colleagues are paid. Last week, the legislation passed the Assembly on a 66-2 vote, and Governor Jerry Brown additionally voiced his support for the bill, which now heads to his desk. If signed into law, it would be the strongest equal pay law in the nation.

Dozens of organizations support the bill, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which early on had opposed it.