The gender wage gap has been a growing problem in the U.S.; however, the state of California decided to put an end to the injustice once and for all by introducing the historic “Fair Pay Act.”
According to “The Takeaway,” the Fair Pay Act, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown this week, requires employers paying men more than women for the same job to verify the pay is based on credentials other than gender. Not only can disgruntled employees challenge alleged discrimination more easily, but they can do so without fear of retaliation as well.
“The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved with this kind of bill,” Gov. Brown said during a ceremony at Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park.
The Fair Pay Act is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, the legislation’s author, came to realize that courts interpreted California’s past equal pay laws to mean that unless male and female employees hold exactly the same jobs, they don’t have to be paid equally. However, under the new California Fair Pay Act, if a female housekeeper cleaning rooms is being paid less than a male janitor cleaning the lobby, she can challenge her employer for equal pay.
“Now they’re going to have to value the work equally,” Jackson said.
Aileen Rizo, a math consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education, was also one of the advocates who helped bring the Fair Pay Act to fruition. Rizo became involved in eliminating the gender wage gap when she herself became a victim of pay discrimination three years ago. Her federal lawsuit against the agency claims a recently hired male coworker had been making $12,000 more annually than her, despite being far less qualified in terms of experience and education. When Rizo began discussing the wage issue with other men in her office, she was encouraged to speak with upper management, but instead came across a number of troubling issues.
“It was like a shuffle of trying to make sure that no one talked to me, and that I would have absolutely no way to solve it internally in the organization itself,” she said. “One of the major [roadblocks] was my prior salary. When women hold their prior salary, they’re holding something that’s a burden to them, especially when employers are consistently asking, ‘Well what did you make before?’”
The issue eventually escalated to a federal lawsuit against the Fresno County Office of Education, which is still pending at this time. However, the incident lit a fire in Rizo to become an activist for equal pay and help ensure pay is based on education and experience rather than pay history or gender.
“Women are head of household in 40 percent of households,” the Fair Pay Act’s co-sponsor, California Assemblyman Bill Dodd, said. “It’s not just a gender problem — it’s a family problem; it’s a human problem. And essentially what [bill] 1354 does is to make sure that, in the state of California, we’re going to practice what we preach.”