By Brian Mellie Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – A judge in Los Angeles ruled that the iconic California law, which requires women on corporate boards, is unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Justice Maureen Duffy-Lewis said the law, which required boards to have up to three female directors by this year, violates the right to equal treatment. The decision is from Friday.

The Conservative legal group Judicial Watch challenged the law, arguing that it was illegal to use taxpayers’ funds to enforce a law that violated the California Constitution’s equal protection clause by imposing a gender-based quota.

The law was unstable from the very beginning with a legislative analysis, according to which it may be difficult to defend the then governor. Jerry Brown says he is signing it, despite the possibility that it will be overturned by the court. Brown said he signed the bill to send a message during the #MeToo era.

In the three years since he has been in the books, he has been credited with improving the situation of women in corporate boardrooms.

The state defended the law as constitutional, saying it needed to turn a culture of discrimination that favored men and was introduced only after other measures failed. The state also said the law does not create a quota, as boards can add seats to female directors without taking away men’s positions.

Although the law provided for potentially severe penalties for failing to file an annual report or failing to comply with the law, a chief of staff in the secretary of state’s office admitted during the trial that he was toothless.

No fines were ever imposed and there was no intention to do so, Betsy Bogart testified. In addition, a letter issued during the trial by former Secretary of State Alex Padilla warned Brown weeks before signing the law that it was likely inapplicable.

“Any attempt by the secretary of state to collect or impose a fine is likely to exceed his authority,” Padilla wrote.

The law required California-based public companies to have one member who identifies as a woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. By January 2022, boards with five directors were to have two women and boards of six or more more members had to have three wives.

The Women on Boards Act, also known by its account number SB826, provides for fines ranging from $ 100,000 in fines for failing to report to the California Secretary of State’s office to $ 300,000 for repeated failures to have the required number of women. board members.

Less than half of the state’s nearly 650 applicable corporations said they complied last year. More than half have not filed the required disclosure statement, according to the latest report.

Proponents of the law hailed it for more benefits for women. Other states followed the example of California. The state of Washington passed a similar measure last year, and lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii proposed similar bills. Illinois requires publicly traded companies to report the composition of their boards.

Deputy Attorney General Ashante Norton said alternatives to a law binding on places for women had been tested in California. In 2013, for example, the legislature passed a resolution urging companies to add women to their boards, but few did.

Prior to the California law, women held 17 percent of the state’s board seats, based on the Russell 3000 index of the largest companies in the United States, according to the 50/50 Women on Boards advocacy group. As of September, the percentage of seats on board held by women had risen to more than 30% in California, compared to 26% nationally.

However, about 40 percent of California’s largest companies had to add women to their boards to comply with the law, the group said.

California’s women on boards law ruled unconstitutional

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