California Closes Gender Gap Among Wage Earners

In California, if employers are not paying men and women the same wage for what can be called “substantially similar work,” they will soon be breaking the law. The California Senate passed a bill last week that is considered the strongest measure in the country aimed at closing the wage gap between men and women. The Governor has been vocal about his intent to sign the bill into law.

In the past, equal pay was dependent upon not similar work, but the same work. In order to fight for their right to equal pay, women had to hold the same position as the men who were earning more. This changed in close to 50 percent of the states when, in 1989, 20 states in the nation made adjustments to their own laws. Equal pay for equal work was changed to “comparable worth.”

Since that time, gender wage equality efforts have come to a standstill. Currently, women make approximately 78 percent of what men do. That will soon change in California, and other states may soon follow suit.

Another portion of the law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against any employee who chooses to discuss their pay. While it is legal for any U.S. worker to do so, many companies frown upon it or prohibit it altogether, threatening disciplinary action against any employee who breaks the rules. This will make it much easier for women to discover exactly what men in similar jobs are making, should those men choose to share the information.

California already leads the nation when it comes to the wage gap. Women, on average, make 84 percent of what men make. There are, however, several industries where the gap is wider. In popular Silicon Valley, men and women with the same college education are not paid equally. Men make 40 percent more. Men who hold higher degrees can make up to 73 percent more.

In Hollywood, men make close to two and a half times what female actors do. While the average worker wouldn’t scoff at bringing home a couple of million on a paycheck, fair is fair. For a man to bring home twice that will soon be against the law.

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