Pay Equity May No Longer Be a Dream in California

For the last decade many of us have decried our inability to achieve true gender pay equity.  Nationwide, women continue to earn 78% of what men do for comparable jobs.  And in the last year, studies have shown dramatic gender-based pay inequities within professions, including traditionally “female” ones such as nursing.  Working women in California do somewhat better, where the pay differential is 84%.  But the fact is there is still a wage gap, and it can’t be completely explained away by lifestyle choices to work part time, or take time off from a career to raise children.  This gap is also more pronounced for women of color.

But that may soon change.  SB 358, the California Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2015, is awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, and early indications are that he will sign it.  If he does, effective January 1, 2016:

An employer shall not pay any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions, except where the employer demonstrates (1) the wage differential is based on one or more of the following factors: (a) seniority system, (b) merit system, (c) system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, (d) bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience…

SB 358 would also discourage employers from telling their employees they can’t discuss wages with one another, ban retaliation for such discussions, and put the burden of proof on the employer that its pay practices ensure gender-based pay equity.

Basically, it would become the most stringent pay-equity law in the United States.  California has led the way in adopting progressive legislation to improve the lives of women and girls before (for example, on the issue of sex trafficking).  Let’s hope the rest of our country follows suit soon.


cathy-standiford Cathy Standiford is passionately committed to improving the lives of women and girls, locally and globally, and advocating for their basic human rights. Cathy served as 2009-2010 President of Soroptimist International of the Americas,’s sponsoring organization: a global volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

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