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California governor signs Fair Pay Act into law

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official profile] signed [press release] the Fair Pay Act [SB 358 text, PDF] into law on Tuesday, aimed at closing the wage gap between male and female employees. The bill will prohibit an employer from paying any employee a lower wage than that paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work. To be excepted from this requirement, an employer must show that the wage difference is based on a seniority system, merit system, a system based on quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor other than sex. This burden that employers prove a pay differential is based on something other than gender is a requirement not found in existing federal law [AP report] on the issue. The law will also protect employees from retaliation if they attempt to invoke these provisions. The Fair Pay Act will take effect in California on January 1.

The California legislature found a 16-cent wage gap between men's and women's pay in 2014 and a wage gap of 44 cents between Latina women and white men. Nationally, the gender wage gap was estimated to be 78 cents [White House Council of Economic Advisors report, PDF] in 2014. The gender pay gap [JURIST op-ed] is an issue in other countries as well. A group of UN experts on the issue of discrimination against women reported [JURIST report] in March that "no country has achieved full substantive equality of women." In March the UK House of Lords [official website] debated a bill [JURIST report] passed through Parliament [official website] that would require certain businesses to reveal whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees. In contemplation of International Women's Day on March 8, Eurostat [official website], the statistical office of the European Union (EU) revealed [press release] that women, on average, earned 16 percent less than men in the EU, and that the UK has the sixth-largest gender pay gap within the EU.

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