New equal pay law goes into effect

Employees free to discuss wages with each other

— Starting last week, employees statewide are legally required to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender.

The changes are a result of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in March.

The new regulations update the state equal pay law, which was established in 1943.

The law has several elements that require employers to provide equal compensation to “similarly employed” workers along with equal opportunities for career advancement, regardless of gender.

Under the law, “similarly employed” means workers for the same employer doing work under similar conditions with similar skills, effort and responsibility.

“There is still a lot of work remaining to achieve true pay and opportunity equity for women in the workforce,” Inslee said. “This bill tears away the ability of companies to shroud salary and promotion decisions in secrecy. This makes it possible for employees to discuss how those decisions are being made without fear of retaliation.”

Along with equal pay and opportunity, the new law says employers cannot stop workers from disclosing their wages to others, or require workers to sign non-disclosure agreements about their wages.

The law protects workers from retaliation and firing for talking about wages with coworkers, and for asking the employer to provide a reason for the employee’s wage or lack of opportunity for advancement.



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