California Seeks to Advance and Protect People of Color and Women in the Workplace

Photo by Tina Chelidze

Demanding justice for People of Color (POC) from all walks of life has always been our modus operandi here at Sariol Legal. Though work still needs to be done on the equity front, our great nation has finally begun to take actionable steps towards a brighter future in order to diminish racism’s cruel sting. Following the untimely death of George Floyd and the protests in light of it, changes such as police reform of select cities and awareness of disproportionate representation of POC are swiftly underway. But when it comes to fair pay and advancement within the workplace, POC and women, specifically, are still greatly in need of a leg up.  In recent weeks, California in particular has taken matters into its own hands to declare systemic justice for all.

On June 24th, the Senate voted to pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA-5). The amendment, written by assembly member Dr. Shirley Weber, allows voters to repeal Proposition 209 and restore affirmative action.

Proposition 209 states, “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

While its initial intentions may have been to work in favor of women and POC, others claim that it’s in fact done the very opposite.

 In a letter sent to Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Senator Anthony J. Portantino from the California Applicants Attorneys Association (CAAA) in support of ACA-5, Proposition 209 has seemingly bolstered the agendas of its authors and their kin, “by erecting new institutional barriers burdening the ability of California’s women and people of color to achieve positions of economic and business leadership.”

In addition to the staggering $1.1 billion that women and POC lose out on each year in public contracting dollars, studies have also shown that a “striking shortage of physicians of color (especially Latinx and African-American physicians) has worsened since the Prop 209 ban on equal opportunity policies and programs, as the pipeline of Latinx and African-American medical students and residents in the University of California system has dwindled severely.”


What to Expect Once ACA-5 Passes

The passage of this bill will irrefutably pave a more seamless transition of marginalized groups and women into more coveted positions of power within the work force and allow students the opportunity to garner higher education from schools of their choice. Additionally, it will invigorate female and minority-owned small businesses, thus creating more job opportunities locally.

And while the passage of ACA-5 deserves nothing short of a celebration, it’s not the only measure California is taking in order to secure a healthier work life amongst its fine partisans.

Having gone into effect July 1st, the Department of Industrial Relations announced that California will be the first in the nation to adopt safety standards to protect agricultural workers during night shifts.

With the majority of agricultural workers being of Latino descent, the standards guarantee that employers will provide proper lighting and ensure that each employee is properly visible by other workers while operating farm machinery and essential vehicles. To further guarantee safety, it is mandatory for employers to hold meetings before every shift in order to advise workers of any high-traffic areas.

It’s important to note that although these steps appear to be small improvements for some concerning the fight against inequality, for our country as a whole, they are colossal leaps towards lasting change.