Quota for women on California corporate boards ‘brazenly unconstitutional,’ new lawsuit says

A California law aimed at creating more gender equity in corporate boardrooms is under fire by a conservative nonprofit, which has filed a lawsuit to block the law from going into effect.

By the end of 2019, all California-based publicly traded corporations must have at least one woman on their board of directors. By the end of 2021, boards with five directors must have at least two women, while boards with six or more members must have at least three women.

A Senate floor analysis of the bill found 761 publicly traded corporations in California. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 537 of those corporations would be subject to the law.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the bill into law, admitted as he was doing so that the courts “may prove fatal” to the bill, but that “it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

The lawsuit, submitted by Judicial Watch on behalf of three plaintiffs — Robin Crest, Earl de Vries and Judy de Vries — was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

“California’s gender quota law is brazenly unconstitutional,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Even Gov. Brown, in signing the law, worried that it is unconstitutional. Judicial Watch’s California taxpayer clients are stepping up to make sure that California’s Constitution, which prohibits sex discrimination, is upheld.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of the law, said Jackson intends to release a statement on the lawsuit soon. This story will be updated when that statement has been released.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.