Gender equity in the workplace and more generally in society is basically a no brainer. However, a bill pending in the Legislature has taken the idea of gender equity to the extreme and may actually reinforce those gender biases that the Legislature and society have been trying to eradicate for years.
SB 320 (Jackson) states that a business cannot charge a different price for substantially similar goods based upon gender. Taken literally, that means that at the point of sale/checkout, a business cannot charge a female customer a higher price for the good just because she is female.
But, the effect of the bill is much broader.
SB 320 would make it potentially unlawful for a business to have two products, side by side, that look similar and may be used for similar purposes but are priced differently based upon a host of things such as different manufacturers or different ingredients. Under SB 320, a consumer can allege that one of the products is “female” and priced higher than the “male” product. Think about the possibilities of the goods and products this could impact ranging from clothing, personal care products, food, vehicles, cleaning products, and much more.
And, how does a business determine whether a product is “female” versus “male” for purposes of comparison. Here is where the social norms that have been rejected for years come into play. Is a pink product a female product simply because of the color? Same with blue and red, which have historically been portrayed as “male” colors. How does a business determine whether laundry detergent, fabric softener, or dish soap is male or female? Are all home cleaning products inherently “female” given the gender stereotype of women being primarily responsible for the home? I should certainly hope not and the Legislature should not require businesses to engage in such gender labeling for purposes of determining a female versus male product for price comparison.
To make matters worse, SB 320 includes a private right of action with an automatic $4,000 for any violation. This means that even if the price differential between the two products is $0.01, a consumer can demand payment of $4,000. California is already known to be a litigious state but imagine opening up the courts for consumers to file a lawsuit against every business, both brick and mortar and online, for minimal price differentials . . . its simply shocking. And, it is unclear how destroying businesses through endless litigation, many of the businesses actually owned by women, helps gender equality in any way.