March 11, 2016 — There are many reasons to love living in California: perfect weather, beach life, and some of the best wines in the world. However, as of January 1st, there are three more: SB 358, SB 579, and AB 202.
SB 358—California Fair Pay Act:
Although federal law prohibits employers from paying women less than men for the same job, employers can use “seniority” and re-word job titles in order to get around the law. In 2016, SB 358 eliminated that loophole by stating employers must provide equal pay for “substantially similar work.” This means that even if titles are a bit different (“janitor” vs. “housekeeper”) equal pay must be given for similar work. In addition, SB 358 now specifically prohibits employers from preventing or discouraging conversations about pay and forbids retaliation if employees discuss wages with fellow colleagues. This is important because “pay secrecy” contributes to the gender wage gap. When I got my first job in Chicago I was told by a fellow new hire that he was offered $4,000 more than I was for the same position, even though we both graduated from the same university and had the same amount of relevant experience. Though it bothered me, I never inquired about it since we were explicitly told that employees could not discuss their compensation. I’ve since left the state, but Illinois did finally pass a Pay Secrecy Law in 2013 prohibiting employers from firing or retaliating against employees for discussing wages. Unfortunately, only a dozen states have pay secrecy laws and a study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about half of American employees are still discouraged or prohibited from discussing wage and salary information with their coworkers, and discussing pay could lead to punishment.
SB 579—California’s “Kin Care” Law
California law requires employers to allow parents/guardians to take off up to 40 hours/year (unpaid) for “child-related” care. SB 579 was modified to cover finding and enrolling a child in school (K-12) or daycare. If you’ve ever had to switch your child’s school or enroll your child in daycare, you know how challenging this can be. And unlike apartment hunting, it’s not something you can save for weekends, when most schools’ administrative offices are closed. SB 579 also protects parents/guardians from retaliation or discrimination if they use their sick leave to pick their children up due to illness, emergencies, or disciplinary reasons. If you’ve ever received the dreaded “your-child-has-pink-eye” phone call from school, you will appreciate this.
Assembly Bill 202
This new law is near and dear to football fans! AB 202 requires that cheerleaders for California-based professional sports teams be classified as employees and protected under California employment and labor laws. Before AB 202 came to pass, cheerleaders for NFL teams could be paid below minimum wage (if at all!), have no insurance, and be discriminated against without any legal protections, as they were not legally considered employees. I am happy to note that this law was passed very quickly.
It’s no secret that California consistently leads the country in the most worker-friendly policies. Hopefully these laws find their way to your state next!