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California governor signs bills barring salary history inquiries, expanding parental leave protections

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a pair of bills on October 12, 2017, that are intended to improve employment conditions for women: one bill takes aim at the gender wage gap; the other expands parental leave protections.

Salary history restriction. A.B. 168, introduced by Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), prohibits all employers, including the legislature and state and local governments, from relying on an applicant’s salary history information as a factor in determining whether to offer an applicant employment or what salary to offer the applicant. Said simply, employers cannot seek salary history information from applicants, including about both compensation and benefits. Employers also must provide the pay scale for a position to the applicant upon reasonable request.

The bill would not prohibit applicants from voluntarily, without prompting, disclosing salary history information, and likewise would not prohibit the employer from considering or relying on that voluntarily disclosed information in determining salary. The bill’s prohibitions also do not apply to salary history information disclosable to the public pursuant to federal or state law.

“The practice of seeking or requiring the salary history of job applicants helps perpetuate wage inequality that has spanned generations of women in the workforce,” Eggman said in a statement. “AB 168 is a needed step to ensure that my 9-year-old daughter, and all women, can be confident that their pay will be based on their abilities and not their gender.”

Expanded parental leave. S.B. 63, introduced by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), increases workplace protections for new parents who work for small businesses. The bill provides 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave for Californians who work for companies with 20 to 49 employees and protects these new parents from losing their jobs and health care benefits.

Current law only provides that those who work for an employer of 50 or more are eligible for job-protected leave. That leaves more than 40 percent of California workers in the position of risking job loss if they take advantage of California’s Paid Family Leave Program, which they are already paying into, because they work for smaller employers, according to Jackson.