California is closing the gap between male and female employees by signing into law the Fair Pay Act. Gov. Jerry Brown made the act a law on Oct. 6, and his office says that it is one of the most solid bills for equal pay across the country.

Under the Fair Pay Act, women have new protections and tools if they think that their employers are paying them an unfair wage because of their gender. The law requires employers to rationalize a wage gap between male and female workers by showing that the male worker deserves more money based on merit or seniority. Additionally, women do not have to worry about asking their employers questions about pay inequality. Supporters of the new law hope that more women will be encouraged to ask questions.

Gov. Brown said that many women are still paid less than men who do similar or the same work 66 years after the California Equal Pay Act was signed into law. The Fair Pay Act is another step toward shrinking the gender wage gap, he added.

A co-sponsor of the bill said that women are the heads of 40 percent of households, so the gender wage gap is a problem for families. The bill author echoed this sentiment, saying that unequal pay is damaging to California’s economy because so many families count on female employees’ incomes. She added that families and the state would receive $33.6 billion more annually if it was not for the gender wage gap.

Many female employees might feel as though they are not getting paid as much as their male counterparts but are too afraid of retaliation, such as losing their jobs, to ask questions about it. Those who find themselves in this position may wish to discuss their concerns with an employment law attorney.