This Thursday, June 7, 2018, an amendment to Washington’s Equal Pay Act goes into effect. This amendment attempts to limit gender discrimination in the workplace by prohibiting discrimination in compensation of “similarly employed” workers of different genders.
Under the act, employees are “similarly employed” when:
- they work for the same company
- the job done requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility
- the jobs are performed under similar working conditions
Differences that are based on bona fide factors such as merit, training, education, and experience, among others are a defense to disparities in pay. However, the factor must be job related, consistent with business necessity, and account for the entire gap in pay.
An example to demonstrate what this mean: if the job in question is to clean offices, the company cannot say that a masters degree in chemistry accounted for the differential because a master’s degree is not needed to clean an office.
In addition, prior wage or salary history is not a bona fide factor or a defense to a claim of gender discrimination in compensation. Aside from prohibiting paying similarly employed people of different genders less, the amendment also prohibits limiting career opportunities or advancement because of someone’s gender. Finally, the amendment restricts an employer preventing employees from discussing wages or other compensation.
Employees may file a complaint with Labor & Industries or file a lawsuit if they believe the Equal Pay Act was violated. L&I has various tools at its disposal if it finds there was a violation of the law: awarding actual damages, statutory damages, recouping investigation costs, and interest.
Employers should proactively review existing policies and practices regarding compensation and advancement opportunities. If you would like help ensuring your business is in compliance with the Equal Pay Act, please contact Equinox.