San Diego Equal Pay Ordinance Approved Unanimously

An ordinance by San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward (District Three) establishing Equal Pay standards for city contractors was approved Monday on a unanimous 9-0 vote.

“For San Diego to fulfill its responsibility as a place where anyone has a fair chance to work hard and succeed, we have to use our legal and economic power to ensure that nobody is at a disadvantage because of their gender or ethnicity,” said Councilmember Ward. “Today San Diego became the largest city in the country to pass an Equal Pay Ordinance, building on San Diego’s long-standing commitment to equal opportunity, and establishing the framework that allows us to partner with businesses receiving tax dollars to make sure this a fair place to work.”

The Equal Pay Ordinance will build upon and strengthen the State Fair Pay Act by requiring that city contractors certify that they will provide equal pay to employees regardless of their gender or ethnicity. It establishes structures for more effective, proactive local enforcement, and better empowers employees to discuss pay without fear of retaliation.

In Fiscal Year 2017 alone, the City is budgeted to have a contract expenditure value of over $613.5 million. Additionally, the magnitude and demand of the City’s $4 billion Capital Improvements Program has made the City of San Diego the single largest employer of consultants and contractors in the region and positions the City to drive employment standards.

“A little more than a dozen years ago, we passed the Living Wage Ordinance in San Diego, so that people working for companies that do business with the city could take home decent pay and benefits. It was about fairness,” said State Senator Toni Atkins. “The Equal Pay Ordinance is a continuation of that idea: If you’re doing business with the city, you’re going to be a partner in an effort to make sure that women in San Diego are treated fairly. I applaud Councilmember Ward for picking up the torch on behalf of working families.”

Modeled after the City’s very successful Equal Benefits and Living Wage Programs, the Equal Pay proposal utilizes a similar framework to ensure compliance is provided including assisting contractors in understanding obligations, monitoring contracts, maintaining records, conducting reviews, investigating complaints, and providing reports as needed.

“The message is simple: equal pay for equal work. Time and time again, San Diego has demonstrated that we are an inclusive city and that we value the hard work of our residents,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Today, we have an opportunity to reinforce that commitment, achieve pay equity, and ensure that economic opportunity is equally available regardless of gender or ethnicity. I urge the San Diego City Council to adopt this ordinance and for the Mayor to sign it into law.”

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a woman who works full time in California makes a median salary of $42,486, compared to a median salary of $50,539 for a man, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families. The problem is even worse for women of color: African American and Latina women working full-time in California make an average of just 64 cents and 44 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men, representing the worst Latina gender wage gap in the nation.

San Diego falls behind even this standard. Recent analysis by the Center on Policy Initiatives found that locally, women make 72 cents on the dollar compared to men, falling to 50 cents for Black women and just 37 cents for Latinas.

The persistent disparity in earnings has a significant impact on the welfare and economic security of millions of women and their families in our state and contributes to the higher poverty rate among women—especially among women of color and single women living with children. As a group, working women in California lose over $38.8 billion each year due to the wage gap. Not only is this a problem of fairness, it makes it more difficult for women to achieve financial independence, provide for their families or prepare for a secure retirement.

The Equal Pay Ordinance will apply to all contracts awarded, entered into, or extended on or after January 1, 2018. It would require a contractor to provide equal pay to its workers regardless of gender identity or ethnicity and certify equal pay as part of entering into a city contract, allow City access to records, when requested, to confirm equal pay, and post equal pay notifications in the workplace.

If it is determined that a contractor is in violation of the EPO, and fails to take appropriate corrective action, the City may cancel, terminate, or suspend the contract in whole or in part, in addition to pursuing any other remedies allowed in the Municipal Code. The ordinance would not apply to certain contracts, including sole source contracts, small businesses with 12 or fewer full-time equivalent employees, and public works contracts under $500,000.