Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s California Fair Pay Act (SB 358) into law this Wednesday.
SB 358, which takes effect in January, prohibits California employers from paying employees at wages lower than those who do substantially similar work, with the intention of ensuring equal pay for women doing the same work as men. The bill received bipartisan support, passing in the Senate without opposition.
SB 358 also states employees can disclose their wages, discuss the wages of others, inquire about another employee’s wages or aid or encourage any other employee to exercise his or her rights under these terms. According to Section One of the bill, California women working full-time in almost all occupations earned an average of 84 cents to every dollar men earned in 2014, meaning women working full-time collectively lost approximately $33,650,294,544.
According to fourth-year political science and feminist studies double major Ashleigh Valenti, there are already California laws banning employers from paying men and women with the same title differently, but SB 358 goes further to ensure equal pay.
“The difference with the new act and current law is that it says bosses cannot get out of paying female employees fairly by giving them a lower title but having them still do the same work,” Valenti said. “By including the words ‘substantially similar work,’ the act denies bosses the loophole of giving different titles in order to pay women less money.”
According to a press release from Jackson’s office, the senator said equal pay will benefit not only individual women but also families and the California economy.
“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 dollars a year,” Jackson said. “That money could be flowing into families’ pocketbooks, into our businesses and our economy.”
Fourth-year year political science and Campus Democrats President Jorge Escobar said the bill is a fundamental step in ending gender inequality.
“This act is needed, for it means that over a couple of years, not only the gender gap will diminish, but it will also further stimulate the California economy,” Escobar said.
Professor of feminist studies Eileen Boris said the bill does take into account the income inequality that stems from unlivable wages in service industries, which currently employ many women.
“It will help, but the real gender wage gap comes from women being in low-waged jobs,” Boris said. “Until we revalue the jobs that women predominate in, equal pay is not enough.”
Fourth-year global studies major and former field organizer for the California Democratic Party AJ Valenzuela Jr. said he appreciates the bill addressing women’s pay directly, but thinks it allows discrepancies in other areas that may perpetuate inequality.
“SB 358 takes away ‘sex’ as a factor for basing an individual’s pay, but restricts it to other factors such as seniority, merit and earnings by quantity or quality of production,” Valenzuela said.