Equal pay for equal work: wait, really?

What does the new California state law really say and what will it mean for those affected?


Aron Zerby

The Class of 2015 graduated college with the most student debt in US history.

Nicolas Dautremont, Staff Writer

I walked up to the giant in red. He was intimidating, to say the least. I asked him what his job was, what he did and how he did it. I then asked a question which made the giant livid. I could see the red in his eyes, the steam from his ears. I backed away in horror. All I asked was how much he got paid.

I was seven, and already I began to see how personal and private one’s salary was. But this may be about to change. On Jan. 4, 2016 California’s governor Jerry Brown signed the new state law known as SB-358 Conditions of Employment, or the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. The new state law allows many rights the federal equivalent doesn’t, being called the “nation’s most aggressive attempt” to level the wage difference (LATimes).

In summary, the document says ,”An employer shall not pay any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work.” This is not anything new to the U.S., but what sets it apart is this addition: “An employer shall not prohibit an employee from disclosing the employee’s own wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages,” meaning employees are now by state law required to release their salary to see if there is any discrimination in the workplace (California State Law).

Which brings up the looming question, why do people care if you know their salaries in the first place? Is it because they don’t want to have more or less than you, as to not aggravate you or themselves? No, because then whoever was getting payed less would be angry at their bosses, not the employee.

So then, why do we care? The law contends that “Pay secrecy also contributes to the gender wage gap, because women cannot challenge wage discrimination that they do not know exists” (California State Law).

So from now on, everyone in the state of California can ask fellow employees what they make, meaning they will know if they are being discriminated against, and solve the problem easy as eating cake. Right? Obviously the social stigma about wage won’t just disappear. There also won’t be a huge amount of court cases for low-paying jobs, because–if lost–it could cost more than the reward.

It is outrageous to think all this legislature and laws are needed just to have pay equality. Federal and state laws are attempting to fix something which has been going on for far too long. So please ask co-workers their salary, don’t shy away from talking about it, because when it comes down to it, many are completely ignorant to the difference in wage, and it’s because they don’t ask or don’t know about the rights and protections they have under the laws.

I know when the time comes that I have a job, I won’t sit in blissful ignorance pleased with how I’m working. I’ll ask the right questions–I’ll ask what others won’t, I’ll ask and I’ll fight for the truth, because now I know my rights and how the law protects me. I won’t let business get the better of me.