LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday he signed the California Fair Pay Act, the nation’s toughest equal-pay legislation that supporters said offers the strongest protection for victims of wage discrimination.

The law mandates that workers of either gender, who are doing “substantially similar jobs,” should be paid the same wage rate, even if they don’t have the same job title.

Lisa Davidson was pleased about the governor’s action. She said she is not a stranger to wage discrimination. “Every job I’ve had if I’m replaced by a man, he makes more money than me,” she said.

The unemployed accountant said her grandmother, a social worker, was also a victim of wage discrimination.

“She quit when she found out a man was making like half again as much,” Davidson said.

Former child-care worker Deidre Hester said: “I had a male co-worker, as a matter of fact he was my friend, but he got paid a lot more than I did for the same job.”

Brown hopes to make those kinds of experiences for many California women, like Davidson and Hester, a thing of the past. “The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved,” he said.

The equal-pay law also protects employees from discrimination and retaliation if they ask questions about how much their co-workers earn. It also puts the burden on employers to prove a worker’s higher pay is based on factors other than gender.

“From goldminers to ship fitters to law professors, and you find that, unfortunately, the experience reflects the statistics that women are suffering from unequal pay, from being paid less than men in every single occupation,” said Jennifer Reisch, equal rights advocate.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center concludes that women make 84 cents for every dollar men make for the same work. And women of color make only 44 cents for every dollar men make for the same work.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” California Women’s Rights attorney Laura Riley said. “That’s huge gap. You know if someone said to you: Can you please work until about end of July for free, and then we’ll start paying you? Most people wouldn’t take that job. But effectively, that’s what’s happening for Latino women in California,” Riley said.

Even in a female-dominated job like secretarial work, the average women make a year is $34,404, compared the average of $39,641 male secretaries make yearly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

“I applaud Jerry Brown for doing this. I think it’s wonderful. But until you find a way to enforce it, it’s just another great idea on paper,” said Paulina Drake, a mortgage auditor.

Drake pointed out that there are laws on the books that requires equal pay for equal work. But she said there has not been enough enforcement of the existing rules.

Supporters said the new law removes some existing loopholes in the existing equal-pay laws and will make it easier for underpaid workers to prove their case.

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