On April 1, a state court judge in Los Angeles ruled that the California law (AB 979) mandating publicly traded companies include people from underrepresented communities on their boards violates the California Constitution. We initially reported on AB 979 here, noting that it was the first law of its kind in the US and was the second time California sought to mandate diversification of public company boards through legislation. In 2018, the first piece of California legislation (SB 826) aimed at increasing gender diversity; in 2020, AB 979 sought to increase diversity from underrepresented communities.
The 2020 law requires publicly held corporations headquartered in California to include at least one person on their boards from an underrepresented community by the end of last year, with additional appointments required in future years. People from underrepresented communities are defined as anyone who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Under AB 979, the California Secretary of State must report annually on companies’ compliance with the law and may impose fines of $100,000 for an initial violation and $300,000 for each subsequent violation.