- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California’s state Assembly on Thursday approved legislation aimed at closing the wage gap between women and men through what proponents describe as the strongest equal pay protection in the nation.

The bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would let female employees challenge pay discrimination based on the wages that the company pays to other employees at different locations. They could also base challenges on wages the company pays to other employees who do substantially similar work.

It would also bar companies from retaliating against employees who discuss or ask about pay at work.

Lawmakers on Thursday approved SB358 on a 66-2 vote. The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive secretary, Nancy McFadden, announced on Twitter that the Democratic governor would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

“Breaking w/convention on #WomensEqualityDay to announce @JerryBrownGov will sign CA Fair Pay Act when it reaches his desk,” McFadden posted.

Supporters say California women were paid an average of 84 cents for every dollar men were paid in 2013.

The gap is significantly greater for minority women. According to the Equal Rights Advocates, which co-sponsored the bill, Latinas in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white man makes while African-American women are paid 64 cents on the dollar.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, presented Jackson’s bill in Assembly and said the proposal establishes the strongest equal pay law in the nation by going beyond federal anti-discrimination law. The bill strives to unveil secrecy surrounding pay, which Garcia says contributes to the gender pay gap.

“You can’t challenge what you don’t know,” Garcia said.

The measure won significant support from the California Chamber of Commerce and received bipartisan support.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, a Modesto-area Republican. “It’s shocking that in 2015 we’re still having to work on this.”

Two Republican lawmakers voted no. Assemblyman William Brough of Dana Point and Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach did not return telephone messages for comment Thursday.

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