Patricia Arquette's speech during her acceptance of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar has inspired an equal-pay proposal in the California legislature.
The bill would “strengthen California’s equal-pay laws to ensure that women are paid equally for work that is comparable to their male colleagues and do not face retaliation if they discuss or ask about pay at work,” according to a statement from the office of its author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara.
Jackson says she had been working behind the scenes on the proposal for months but put it on the table yesterday following Arquette's impassioned speech. The actress said, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
At a news conference Tuesday, the lawmaker said, “Her rallying cry has energized a movement that has long been calling for this issue. … We think the time for talk is over.”
“After actress Patricia Arquette helped raise the visibility of this issue,” she said, “I knew now was the time to formally announce plans to pursue legislation.”
The law would require the same pay for women who perform comparable work. Current law uses the term “equal” work. Jackson says that this language has created a loophole by which employers can exclude women from equal pay by shifting job titles or using strict hourly comparisons.
The proposal also would outlaw retaliation against women who talk about their compensation at the workplace.
Jackson's office notes that California women are paid 84 cents for every dollar a man makes and that the disparity gets worse, and leads the nation, when it comes to Golden State Latinas, who make 44 cents compared with a white man's dollar.
“Women who are employed full-time in California lose approximately $33,650,294,544 every year due to the wage gap,” Jackson's office says.
The proposal is backed by Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. The group's vice chair, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, said:
If you are a woman, you get paid less, if you are Latina, even less. If you are a mother, even less. We should be applauding and supporting the work of women and their diversity.