On Equal Pay Day, Jackson’s Bill to Close the Wage Gap with Data to be Voted on Key Committee

April 1, 2019
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SACRAMENTO — On Equal Pay Day April 2, the day that represents how far into the next year women must work to earn what men did in the prior year, State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)’s legislation to require California’s larger employers to report salary data to the state will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 171 would require California employers with 100 or more employees to submit a pay data report annually to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, outlining compensation and hours worked of its employees by gender, race, ethnicity and job category.

The bill is modeled after a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission effort to collect pay data by race and gender instituted under the Obama Administration that was later halted by the Trump Administration. A federal judge recently ordered the Trump Administration to reinstate this rule, although it is unclear whether the federal government plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“On Equal Pay Day, we are reminded that all women, and especially women of color, continue to face pay disparities as they pursue their careers. Women comprise almost half the workforce and are the sole breadwinners in half of American families. The gender pay gap not only hurts women, it punishes children and families too. Despite whatever happens at the federal level, SB 171 will help California employers examine their pay practices for pay disparities and make adjustments accordingly. With their support, we can make every day Equal Pay Day,” said Senator Jackson.

The reports would ensure privacy by requiring that individually identifiable information be protected and not available to the general public, but would permit state agencies to identify patterns of wage disparities and better enforce wage discrimination laws, when appropriate. It would also encourage employers to analyze and self-correct their own pay practices in the process.

Despite significant progress made in California in recent years, including the enactment in 2016 of SB 358 (Jackson), the California Fair Pay Act, the gender pay gap remains, resulting in an estimated $78.6 billion in lost wages for women each year in California.

When pay disparities go undetected, it becomes even more difficult to close the wage gap. In fact, many employers themselves are unaware of discrepancies in their own companies. A recent Harvard Business Review report found that the gender pay gap narrowed significantly at companies required to disclose their gender pay disparities. The report also found it increased the number of women being hired and promoted.

“You can’t fix what you can’t see,” said Jessica Stender, Senior Counsel for Workplace Justice & Public Policy at nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates. “Some employers aren’t even aware of pay discrepancies in their own company. SB 171 will empower employers to investigate and fix their own wage disparities, and will help California more effectively enforce its current equal pay laws.”

SB 171 will be heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on April 2 at 1:30 p.m. in room 112 of the State Capitol. The hearing will be livestreamed at www.calchannel.com.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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