Locally Implementing Senator Kamala Harris' Proposal, Councilmember Blumenfield Calls to Close Gender Pay Gap with 'Equal Pay LA'

LOS ANGELES, CA –Inspired by a bold new proposal from US Senator Kamala Harris, today Councilmember Blumenfield launched ‘Equal Pay LA,’ a new local effort, co-presented by Councilmembers Monica Rodriguez, Mitch O’Farrell and Nury Martinez, to close the gender pay gap and hold bad actors accountable. Currently women in the United States are paid $0.80 cents to the dollar compared to what their male counterparts make and the burden of proof remains on the shoulders of the employee, rather than the employer.

“After hearing about Senator Harris’ proposal to hold corporations accountable for the gender pay gap, I knew Los Angeles should lead the way by implementing her idea locally,” said Blumenfield. “We really need to have a paradigm shift where instead of a worker having to fight for what is right, we should hold corporations accountable for continuing this injustice. Though California has the lowest pay gap compared to other states, anything short of complete equality is unacceptable.”

Councilwoman Nury Martinez said, “Since I’ve been in office, fighting for equal pay has been one of my top priorities. So much that I worked to remove all questions about salary history from City job applications to close the gender wage gap. It is ridiculous that in 2019 women across the United States are still getting paid just $0.80 cents for every dollar paid to men. As a City, taking this important step forward in ensuring women get paid equally as men for a hard day’s work, is the right direction in creating a more equitable future for the next generation. It’s the right thing to do, especially now, when women's rights are under attack.” 

"It's simple -- women deserve to be paid as much as men for equal work," said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. "Latinas on average make $0.53 cents for every dollar paid to men. We must close the gender pay gap to ensure that women of all backgrounds are compensated fairly."

According to a recent study on gender pay inequity from the National Partnership for Women and Families, the median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job is $41,977 while the median annual pay for a man who holds a full-time, year-round job is $52,146.

Pay discrepancy is abhorrent when the statistics are broken down by race. African American women are typically paid $0.61 cents, Native American women $0.58 cents and Latinas just $0.53 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Eliminating this pay gap could equate to more than a year of food, seven months of mortgage payments, ten months of rent or one year of tuition at a state college. 

Senator Harris’ proposal outlines how companies would have to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification” and disclose pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If a company is found to be paying workers with similar responsibilities different salaries based on gender, they will be fined 1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap. Those fines would then be reinvested into programs such as paid family leave or medical leave. Blumenfield’s motion specifically directs Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) and the City Attorney’s Office to explore avenues to apply Senator Harris’ proposal to hold businesses accountable on the local level. This includes having local departments report back on options to implement a citywide equal pay law for employers with more than 100 employees, to ensure companies in Los Angeles verify their workers are not paid differently based on gender and using established enforcement mechanisms to expand worker protections.

Currently city ordinances prohibit employment discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion, marital status among other protected classes, but no city law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work by employers. CA Labor Code § 1197.5 provides a right of action for an individual who has been paid unfairly. The City of Los Angeles would go one step further and place responsibility for compliance on the employer rather than just on the employee. Inequity harms the individual and also negatively impacts the city when there are pay gaps, so it is imperative to ensure that employers comply, and the city should have the ability to take its own punitive action, to address inequity.

Blumenfield concluded, “The time is now to try and correct the institutionalization of pay inequity. Making sure people are paid fairly should not be controversial. My hope is that folks around the country listen to what Senator Harris has proposed and see what we are trying to do here in Los Angeles, so they can work toward a more equitable future in their own communities.”

 

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