California Senator Pushing For “Pay Protection By Race” Law Ensuring Equal Pay For Minorities

April 12, 2016  |  



A California State Senator wants to boost pay protection in the state by adding race to the current equal pay legislation. California already protects pay by gender, but Sen. Isadore Hall thinks a pay proposal regarding race is also necessary and is working to pass such a law.

Hall’s proposal would be an addition to California’s current fair pay law that requires employers justify any pay discrepancies between men and women who do “substantially similar” work. Hall would like to add “race or ethnicity” to the requirement as well.

“No one should be paid less than what they’re worth and no one should be discriminated against because of the hue of their skin or their gender,” said Hall, a Democrat, in a statement. “This is the most robust racial equality bill in the nation.”

California’s existing pay law, passed last year, is already considered the toughest of its kind. The law permits “employees to openly discuss their compensation and challenge pay gaps between men and women. Hall’s proposal, scheduled to be heard in committee for the first time Wednesday, would permit workers to challenge racially disparate pay, too,” reports Yahoo.

When the law was first passed, the racial equation was “strategically left out of that law to ensure its passage,” Yahoo stated. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, author of last year’s fair pay legislation, confirmed as much, saying, “The goal is to get to a place where we’re all paid fairly for our work. I don’t know if we can accomplish that all at once.”

Despite studies demonstrating persistent pay discrimination based on gender, the data on the racial pay gap includes numerous underlying variables which muddies the facts a bit. For example, Jennifer Reisch, legal director at Equal Rights Advocates, a civil rights nonprofit that helped craft California’s 2015 law, said, “There is plenty of evidence to show women of color are facing lower pay for many reasons and one of those reasons is the combination of race and gender, but a lot of it is explained by other factors as well.”

Still, Hall argues his proposal is more than necessary, especially when you consider a review of federal labor statistics by the National Women’s Law Center found that women comprise about 60 percent of California workers earning minimum wage or less and a majority of those women are not white.

“Compared to their non-Hispanic, white male counterparts in California, Latinas made 43 cents to every dollar, Native American women made 50 cents, Black women made 63 cents and Asian American women made 72 cents in 2014,” reported Yahoo.

Some observers say that adding race may lead to the addition of disability, age, and religion as future criteria as well, and that means companies will have to pay up big time. After the 2015 law was passed, Apple, Intel and Salesforce conducted internal audits to identify pay gaps between men and women and the later found gender pay discrepancies totaling nearly $3 million. The company then raised pay for more than 1,000 employees.

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