Washington's Revised Equal Pay Law Begins June 2018 After No Change Since 1943
Beginning June 7, 2018, Washington State House Bill 1506 (RCW 49.12.175) takes effect, which means some potentially big changes for Washington employers. The law, otherwise known at the Washington’s equal pay act, is designed to achieve gender pay equality.
Washington’s equal pay act has not been updated since 1943. Now, the law provides not only requirements of gender pay equality but also penalties if employers fail to follow the law.
The law requires that employees who are similarly employed to receive equal pay. The law states that “employees are similarly employed if the individuals work for the same employer, the performance of the job requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions. Job titles alone are not determinative of whether employees are similarly employed.”
The law states that an employer may not: (1) “require nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages as a condition of employment,” (2) “require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that prevents the employee from disclosing the amount of the employee's wages,” or (3) “discharge or in any other manner retaliate against an employee” for specified conduct.
However, “discrimination within the meaning of this section does not include a differential in compensation based in good faith on a bona fide job-related factor or factors” that the law outlines.
If an employee files a complaint with the Department of Labor and Industries, L&I must investigate to determine if the employer violated the law. If L&I then finds a violation, it is required to attempt to resolve the violation by a conference and conciliation. L&I also has the authority to issue a citation and notice of assessment and order penalties and legal fees against the employer.
It is a separate violation for each employee affected by the discrimination. Civil penalties for the first violation may not exceed $500, but subsequent violations “may not exceed one thousand dollars or ten percent of the damages, whichever is greater.”
Additionally, the employee may file a separate civil lawsuit against the employer for a violation of the law.
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