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Salary History Bans and the Washington State EPOA

by | June 3, 2019

Effective on July 28, 2019, employers in Washington State are prohibited from collecting or seeking the wage or salary history of an applicant for employment.

Salary History Bans

Salary history bans are becoming increasingly common and are now in place in some form across 17 states, including Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as 14 local jurisdictions. These bans generally prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants, the purpose being to promote pay equity and gender equality in the workplace. Some laws go further, prohibiting employers from relying on pay history at all when determining compensation, even if the information is volunteered or otherwise legally discovered during the hiring process.

Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act

On May 9, 2019, Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1696, which amends the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA). Under the newly amended EPOA, an employer having 15 or more employees is prohibited from seeking the wage or salary history of a job applicant, whether directly from the applicant or indirectly from the applicant’s current or former employer. Further, an employer may not require that an applicant’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria.

There are two exceptions provided in the law. An employer may confirm an applicant’s wage or salary history in either of the following circumstances: (1) if the applicant voluntarily discloses the information or (2) after the employer has negotiated and made an offer of employment with compensation to the applicant.

In addition to these salary history limitations, the new law also requires an employer to disclose the minimum wage or salary for the position upon request from an applicant. It is noteworthy that disclosure is only required after the employer has offered the applicant the position. Similarly, upon request, an employer must provide the wage scale or salary range for an employee who has been offered an internal transfer or promotion. If no wage scale or salary range exists, the employer must provide the minimum wage or salary expectation set by the employer prior to posting the position, making a position transfer, or making the promotion.

Next Steps for Employers

Prior to July 27, 2019, employers in Washington should perform a review of their hiring practices, policies, and procedures and remove questions about, or mentions of, salary history from any hiring documentation, including job applications, job descriptions, and interview questions. Additionally, employers should ensure they are prepared to respond to salary or wage inquiries from applicants and internal employees, as required under the new law. Finally, employers should be sure to train hiring managers and HR personnel on the new rules and restrictions provided in the amended EPOA.

Questions? Contact Equinox and one of our attorneys can advise on how these new rules apply to your business.