Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown signs bill broadening equal pay protections

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, gestures during a hearing at the Capitol on Oct. 6, 2015. Senate Bill 358, by Jackson, requires equal pay for “substantially similar work” regardless of gender.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, gestures during a hearing at the Capitol on Oct. 6, 2015. Senate Bill 358, by Jackson, requires equal pay for “substantially similar work” regardless of gender. Associated Press file

Gov. Jerry Brown, lamenting “inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever,” signed legislation Tuesday enacting pay equity laws that are among the strongest in the nation.

Senate Bill 358, by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, prohibits employers from forbidding their workers to compare wages. It also requires equal pay for “substantially similar work” regardless of gender, strengthening the state’s existing Equal Pay Act.

“This is really a big day, important,” Brown told a crowd of supporters at the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historic Park. “The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved with this kind of bill.”

Though California already prohibits businesses from paying women less for doing the same work as men, the law signed Tuesday broadens the existing law to require women get paid as much for doing “substantially similar” work.

The bill was a priority of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and passed with bipartisan support. The California Chamber of Commerce, which initially opposed the measure, endorsed the bill after working with Jackson to craft an exception for differences in pay for legitimate reasons such as seniority or merit.

Before the signing ceremony, supporters, including many women and young girls, posed for photographs in front of a poster with the title “We Can Do It,” and they joined Brown on stage to watch him sign the bill.

Nancy McFadden, Brown’s executive secretary, told the crowd, “Today, California leads on equal pay, and it’s about time.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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