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California Passes Law Requiring Boards of Publicly-Held Corporations to Include Women by 2019

Published Wednesday, November 28, 2018
by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

On September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a radical initiative to add women to corporate boards of directors for publicly-held corporations headquartered in California. According to Brown in a letter to the California State Senate, “Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.” 

In an effort to “close the gender gap” in business, the new law requires publicly traded corporations whose principal executive offices are headquartered in California to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. By December 31, 2021, this requirement will expand to require that a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five (5) members, and there must be at least three women on boards with six or more (6+) members. The corporations’ SEC 10-K form will be used to determine the location of the principal executive offices.

The bill requires that by July 1, 2019, the Secretary of State publish the number of domestic and foreign corporations whose principal executive offices are located in California and who have at least one female director. The bill also authorizes the Secretary of State to impose fines for violations of the bill, and provides that funds from these fines are to be available, upon appropriation, to offset the cost of administering the bill.

Penalties for non-compliance will be high, including fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation. Companies must demonstrate their compliance by filing their board member information with the Secretary of State by the respective deadlines. Who Will Be Affected by this Law?

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*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.


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