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California Governor Signs Legislation Targeting Wage Gap

Checker Brittney Bounds bags groceries Tuesday in Sacramento, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed an equal pay measure that lets female employees challenge pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays to male employees who do similar work. Rich Pedroncelli/AP hide caption

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Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Checker Brittney Bounds bags groceries Tuesday in Sacramento, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed an equal pay measure that lets female employees challenge pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays to male employees who do similar work.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a gender wage equality law that his office says is among the strongest in the nation.

"Sixty-six years after passage of the California Equal Pay Act, many women still earn less money than men doing the same or similar work," Brown said. "This bill is another step toward closing the persistent wage gap between men and women."

In 2013, women employed full time in California made 84 cents for every dollar a man earned. Disparities were greater for minority women.

The law gives women new tools and protections if they believe they're being paid unfairly because of gender.

As Danielle Karson reports for NPR:

"It puts the burden on an employer to prove that a male co-worker's bigger paycheck is based on seniority or a merit system, so if there are gender-based wage gaps, a woman can challenge her employer without fear of blowback. Women often don't know they're being paid less than their male co-workers, so advocates hope the new law will encourage women to ask questions."

The California Fair Pay Act, authored by Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, had bipartisan support in the state Legislature.

Jackson said pay inequality hurts California's economy.

"Families rely on women's income more than ever before," she said. "Because of the wage gap, our state and families are missing out on $33.6 billion a year. That money could be flowing into families' pocketbooks, into our businesses and our economy."

According to The Associated Press, some state lawmakers said they were motivated to pursue equal pay legislation by pleas from high-profile actresses at this year's Academy Awards.