Despite, or perhaps because of, overwhelming congressional gridlock that has stymied federal legislation, states are taking their own steps toward addressing the gender wage gap. On Tuesday evening, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act, which is being called the “strongest” state law to tackle the issue. The legislation requires employers to justify their reasoning for salary differentials between employees doing “substantially similar” work, by citing “a bona fide factor other than sex.” These factors include concrete qualities such as education, professional experience, technical skills, and seniority.
The new law, authored by state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the state senate earlier this year, and goes into effect on January 1st. The Fair Pay Act enables female workers to openly ask for and discuss co-workers’ salary information, while explicitly protecting them from employer retaliation, a protection that did not exist before.
“Many women still earn less money than men doing the same or similar work, said Brown. "The stratification and the pay disparities...are something that really eats away at our whole society."