Washington State passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (EPOA) March 21, 2018, which takes effect June 7, 2018.
The law applies to all employers with employees in the state of Washington. It states that discrimination in compensation is prohibited between “similarly employed” employees. Similarly employed means:
- Employees work for the same employer
- Performance of the job requires similar skill, effort and responsibility
- Jobs are performed under similar working conditions
Another important item to note is that the law states job titles do not determine pay levels. It also requires equal employment benefits, not just monetary payment of wages.
Discrimination does not include differences in pay based on “good faith” on a bona fide job-related factor or factors that:
- Are consistent with business necessity
- Are not built on a gender-based differential
- Account for the entire differential
These factors may include:
- Seniority system
- Merit system
- Production-based earnings system
- Regional differences in compensation levels
Lastly, the law specifically states an employee’s previous wage history is not a defense.
The EPOA prohibits employers from limiting career advancement opportunities based on gender. Also, employers cannot prohibit employees from disclosing their wages to each other. However, they may prohibit employees who have access to compensation records from disclosing them to other employees. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for discussing wages, asking the employer to explain their wages or lack of opportunity for advancement.