California has one of the toughest pay equity laws in the nation. Working mothers, in particular, can be grateful to be in one of the few states offering job-protected paid family leave.
Yet as the average working woman in California celebrated Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, it was with the understanding that the guy in the next cubicle was about 16 percentage points more equal. Women here earn an average of 84 cents for every dollar men earn – not much better than the 80-cent national figure.
Contributing to the problem is a huge gap in state law that should have been addressed years ago in California. Only businesses with 50 or more employees have to hold the jobs of new parents who take maternity or paternity leave to bond with a new child. That’s a start, sure, but businesses that size employ only a fraction of the work force.
Meanwhile, all private sector workers here kick in for the paid family leave program, regardless of the size of their employers. A small automatic payroll deduction is tacked onto the state disability insurance fund for wage replacement.
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Senate Bill 63 would lower the threshold for job protected family leave to businesses with 20 or more employees – a size so feasible that even small businesses support it.
So though paid family leave is supposed to be available to all, and though all ante up for the program, not all can take it in practice. As a result, a lot of women, forced to choose between doing right by a child and alienating an employer, quit.
This isn’t OK. It takes bread from the tables of families, disrupts women’s earnings and sidelines valuable labor. Most women work; it’s immoral to pretend otherwise.
For years, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has tried to shrink the small business loophole. The California Chamber of Commerce for years has labeled her efforts “job killers.”
The Chamber is off base. Last year, they got Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a Jackson bill on this with a last-minute claim that it opened small businesses to frivolous litigation; in fact, state fair employment disputes can be kept out of court via mediation.
Jackson’s current bill, Senate Bill 63, would lower the threshold for job protected family leave to businesses with 20 or more employees – a size so feasible that even the Small Business Majority, which represents some 3.6 million small businesses in the state, supports it.
State lawmakers should pass this doable fix, and Brown should sign it. California should be more equal than this.