A judge in California said that a law forcing companies to include women on their corporate boards is unconstitutional.
In a ruling from Friday, Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said California could not prove that the “use of a gender-based classification was necessary to boost California’s economy, improve opportunities for women in the workplace, and protect California taxpayers, public employees, pensions and retirees.”
The California legislature also didn’t think about changing anti-discrimination laws that were already in effect or “putting into effect a new anti-discrimination law focused on the board selection process before Senate Bill 826 was signed into law, Duffy-Lewis wrote,” per the Los Angeles Times.
The court also found that the state couldn’t put forward any proof of a certain company that discriminated against a woman and would have been under the law.
Judicial Watch, a conservative legal foundation, brought a challenge against the law in a trial without a jury a few months ago, making the argument that taxpayers should not be forced to pay to make sure corporate boards met a certain gender qualification.
The law dates back to former Democratic Governor of California Jerry Brown, and was signed by Brown in 2018. However, workers with the secretary of state’s office said in the trial that it was essentially useless by 2022.
If a company didn’t meet the quotas, they could be fined $100,000 for a first-time offense and then $300,000 for another, but none were ever issued fines for violations and California wasn’t going to carry out the rule, according to Betsy Bogart, chief of business programs at the secretary of state’s office.
Last year, less than half of the almost 650 applicable companies in California reported they had acted in accordance with the law. “More than half didn’t file the required disclosure statement, according to the most recent report,” according to PBS.
Prior to Brown signing the legislation, the secretary of state at the time — Alex Padilla — told the governor it would be hard to carry out.
“Any attempt by the secretary of state to collect or enforce the fine would likely exceed its authority,” Padilla wrote to Brown in a letter that was incorporated in the trial.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, who co-authored the legislation, said the decision was a disappointment.
“More women on corporate boards means better decisions and businesses that outperform the competition — that’s a studied, proven fact,” Atkins said in a statement. “We believe this law remains important — despite the disheartening ruling from the Los Angeles Superior Court — and it exemplifies equal access and opportunity, the very bedrock of our democracy. For those still afraid of women in positions of leadership, they need to work on figuring that out because the world is moving on without them.”
Judicial Watch also brought forward another lawsuit concerning a California law that tried to force certain companies in California to have specific diversity requirements for their boards. That law was also found to be unconstitutional by a judge in Los Angeles. The judge did not provide a reason for the decision.
The ruling “declared unconstitutional one of the most blatant and significant attacks in the modern era on constitutional prohibitions against discrimination,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement, per the Los Angeles Times.