- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California’s state Senate on Monday advanced what proponents called the nation’s strongest law designed to make sure women are paid equally for the work they perform.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said her bill goes beyond federal anti-discrimination law in trying to narrow a wage gap that saw California women paid an average of 84 cents for every dollar men were paid in 2013.

Hispanic women in California were paid 44 cents for every dollar paid white men, “the biggest wage gap for Latina women in the entire country,” she said, citing Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization that is promoting the legislation.

“It is critical that women be paid fairly and equally for the work they do,” she said.

Under Jackson’s bill, employers would have to demonstrate that any wage differences between male and female employees are based on reasonable job-related considerations and not merely on gender.

The bill would allow workers to allege 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.

The measure won significant support from the California Chamber of Commerce, and there were no groups or arguments in opposition.

The Senate approved SB358 on a 38-0 vote, sending it to the Assembly.

Also Thursday, the Assembly approved legislation that would prohibit employers from asking workers about their past salaries in another attempt to prevent a cycle of women’s wages lagging behind men’s pay.

AB1017 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, passed on a 41 to 28 vote, the minimum needed to advance.

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Associated Press writer Fenit Nirappil contributed to this story.

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