[LOS ANGELES] California on Tuesday adopted a bill aimed at ensuring equal pay between men and women, a measure considered among the strongest in the nation and applauded by Hollywood.
"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," Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement after signing the bill into law.
"This bill is another step toward closing the persistent wage gap between men and women." The California Fair Pay Act was introduced by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson following a study that found that women earned about 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The bill builds on existing legislation by prohibiting an employer from paying any employee less for substantially similar work rather than equal work.
"Today is a momentous day for California, and it is long overdue. Equal pay isn't just the right thing for women, it's the right thing for our economy and for California," Jackson said during the signing ceremony.
The bill was also hailed as a major breakthrough for women by several Hollywood actresses who had advocated in favour of wage equality.
"On behalf of the more than 19 million women and girls who call California home, I thank Governor Brown and the courageous members of the California legislature for showing that true progress to close the gender wage gap is possible," said actress Geena Davis in a statement.
Added Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette: "The (bill)received bipartisan support because women support families and drive our economy.
"It is a critical step toward ensuring that women in California are seen and valued as equals." Arquette had made an impassioned plea for equal pay for women during her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
According to Forbes magazine, Hollywood's best paid actor, Robert Downey Jr., last year earned US$80 million, nearly US$30 million more than Jennifer Lawrence, the best paid actress who earned US$52 million.
The Washington, DC-based advocacy group National Partnership for Women and families, said Latina women in California earn 44 cents for every dollars earned by a white man while African-American women earn 64 cents for every dollars earned by a white man.
The US federal minimum wage is US$7.25 per hour if the worker's employer covers their health insurance, and US$8.25 per hour without medical coverage.