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AB-1084: Gender Neutral Retail in California

Under a law passed in October 2021, large department stores in California must maintain gender neutral displays of toys and other items for children

Introduction

Signed into law by Governor Newsom on October 9, 2021, AB-1084 requires large retail department stores in California that sell childcare items or toys to maintain a gender neutral section, regardless of whether the toys or other items have been traditionally marketed to girls or boys. California is the first state to pass a law of this kind.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Yan Krukov, Pexels.com

Bill Text and Legislative History

AB-1084 was introduced in February 2021 and signed into law on October 9, 2021. You can find the bill text, bill analysis, and other documents relating to this law's legislative history on the California legislature's website.

See our California legislative history guide for information on how these documents all work together as persuasive legal authority in determining the intent behind the law as well as clarifying significant additions or deletions as the bill moved through the legislature.  For example, AB-1084 initially listed "clothing" as well as toys and other childcare items.  However this language was deleted early on during revisions by the California Assembly. 

Bill text, as chaptered:

 Part 2.57 (commencing with Section 55.7) is added to Division 1 of the Civil Code, to read:

PART 2.57. Gender Neutral Retail Departments

55.7.

 The Legislature finds and declares both of the following:

(a) Unjustified differences in similar products that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys can be more easily identified by the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor.

(b) Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate.

 

55.8.

 (a) A retail department store that offers childcare items or toys for sale shall maintain a gender neutral section or area, to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer, in which a reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells shall be displayed, regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.

(b) This section shall apply only to retail department stores that are physically located in California that have a total of 500 or more employees across all California retail department store locations. This section shall not apply to retail department stores that are physically located outside California.

(c) Beginning on January 1, 2024, a retail department store that fails to comply with this section is liable for a civil penalty, not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for a first violation or five hundred dollars ($500) for a subsequent violation, which may be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General, or a district attorney or city attorney, in any court of competent jurisdiction. If the Attorney General, district attorney, or city attorney prevails in an action under this subdivision, the court shall award to the Attorney General, district attorney, or city attorney reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

(d) For purposes of this section:

(1) “Childcare item” means any product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep, relaxation, or the feeding of children, or to help children with sucking or teething.

(2) “Children” means persons 12 years of age or less.

(3) “Toy” means a product designed or intended by the manufacturer to be used by children when they play.

News Coverage of AB-1084

Books and Articles on Gender Bias in Toys

For Further Reading

Interested in gender, toys, and the law? You Don't Own Me, by Herzog Research Professor and Warren Distinguished Professor of Law Orly Lobel is a page-turning exploration of the intellectual property legal battle between Mattel and MGA over their Barbie and Bratz dolls, along with all of the gender issues embedded in the dispute.