Plaintiffs’ lawyers appreciate Legislature’s data dump

Loren Kaye

President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education


In a recent article about a job-killing bill that threatens more workplace litigation, CalChamber’s Jennifer Barrera and the internet trade association ComTIA’s Kara Bush stated, “By using the smokescreen of transparency, the bill author and her plaintiffs’ attorneys allies aim to unravel the carefully structured compromise. In effect, the legislation would require employers to serve up reams of data that attorneys need to establish a case. What a gift!”

In short, the proposed law would require many private employers and nonprofits to collect data on salaries of all well-paid white-collar employees. The statistics for each job title or classification must be analyzed and re-categorized according to whether the job duties are substantially similar. Thousands of businesses would deliver the data to the secretary of state, to be posted in public. Legitimate reasons for pay differentials wouldnot be included in the database.

The bill’s supporters pooh-poohed any special benefit to lawyers, but what do you know – turns out it’s true.

Just two days after the Assembly gave final approval to the measure, the Sacramento Business Journal(paywall) reported that plaintiffs’ attorneys were rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the new business.

But at least one member of the California Employment Lawyers Association has said he will proactively use the database to pursue wage disparity cases.

“By posting this on the Secretary of State’s website, the government is basically giving us (plaintiff lawyers) the data we need to go in there and hammer companies,” said Galen T. Shimoda, attorney owner at Shimoda Law Corp.

Although the wage data cannot form the sole basis of a lawsuit, he believes the database will help set him “on the right track.” And while the purpose of the bill is not to spark litigation against large companies, Shimoda believes the government understands that litigation is a part of the corrective force needed to address wage disparity.

“With AB 1209 providing true statistics, it’s almost like the government is saying, ‘Here’s the basis, litigators — go for it, start filing,’” he said.

The proposal introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat, takes direct aim at a well-crafted 2015 deal. It would put a thumb on the scale, making it easier for plaintiffs’ lawyers to file pay equity lawsuits.

In their own words, plaintiffs’ attorneys can hardly wait for this data windfall. The bill has landed on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his decision.

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