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Goodbye ‘pink tax’: California prohibits charging premiums for women’s products

Violations of newly signed AB 1287 could cost companies thousands of dollars in fines.|

Women across California should no longer be forced to pay a premium when purchasing toiletries and other products, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday outlawing the so-called “pink tax.”

Joined by members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and his wife, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, the governor signed into law a package of bills intended to advance gender equity and protect the rights of women.

AB 1287, authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, prohibits companies from charging different prices for products based on the gender they’re marketed to — a practice referred to as the “pink tax.”

Violations could cost companies thousands of dollars in fines.

“These measures bring new transparency to tackle pay gaps, end discriminatory pricing of products based on gender and expand supports for survivors of abuse and assault,” Newsom said in a statement.

Critics of gender-based pricing argue that the disparities place a disproportionate economic burden on women and reinforce gender inequity and harmful stereotypes.

“With this signing, (California) takes a step closer to gender equity,” Bauer-Kahan said.

A 2018 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that products pitched to women often cost more than similar versions marketed to men. In five out of 10 personal care categories for women, items such as deodorant and shaving cream designed for women cost significantly more than comparable products for men, the office reported. In only two categories, shaving gels and non-disposable razors, were the products more expensive for men.

California now joins New York, which enacted a pink tax ban in 2020.

The new law in the Golden State will still allow for some price disparities in gender-based products, but only when there is a significant differential in cost or length of manufacturing time.

“Governor Newsom’s actions to sign a diverse package of bills that are leading with a lens on equity will make a positive difference for women, children, and families across the state and ensures we are rebuilding a system that better values women and everything they bring to the table,” Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, said.

One bill noticeably missing Newsom’s signature on Tuesday was SB 951, which would strengthen paid family leave benefits and make it more economically feasible for low-wage workers to take part in the program.

The bill, which the governor has until Friday to veto or sign, would require employers to provide workers with more compensation if they need to take time off to care for a new child. Specifically, it would increase the portion of a worker’s salary that an employer must cover from 70% to 90% for low-wage workers earning less than $57,000 a year and from 60% to 70% for all other eligible workers beginning on Jan. 1, 2025.

“California is far behind other peer states and it should be leading,” Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Politics and Policy Institute, said about the state’s paid family leave program. “Ultimately, not signing this bill means that those women and caregivers who are more affluent are going to continue to benefit on the backs of families that are facing severe economic precarity.”

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