Protections under equal pay law
Women’s Equality Day, August 26, commemorates the 19th Amendment, which established voting rights for women in the United States. The day also serves as a reminder that there is still work to ensure equal gender rights, including in the workplace.
In Washington State, there continues to be a gap in wages and advancement opportunities among workers, especially women. The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (RCW 49.58), which took effect in June 2018, helps close that gap by prohibiting gender pay discrimination and promotes gender pay equity.
Employers need to pay attention to these new requirements because a worker can file a complaint with L&I if they believe their rights under the law have been violated.
Employees have the following rights under the law:
- Equal pay: Employers must provide equal compensation to “similarly employed” workers except for specific reasons unrelated to gender.
- Equal career advancement opportunities: Employers must not limit or prevent career advancement opportunities to their employees based on gender.
- Open wage discussions: Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing their wages with others or require employees to sign agreements that prevent wage discussions.
- Access to wage or salary information: Employers with 15 or more employees must provide an employee who is offered an internal transfer or promotion with their new position’s wage scale or salary range if requested.
- Prohibited retaliation: Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate, including terminating an employee, for exercising any of their protected rights under this law.
Job applicant rights
People applying for jobs also have rights under this law:
- Wage and salary privacy protections: Employers cannot seek an applicant’s wage or salary history or require their prior wage history to meet specific criteria.
- Access to minimum wage or salary information for applicants: Employers with 15 or more employees must provide an applicant who is offered a position with the minimum wage or salary if requested.
If you’d like us to schedule a webinar for members or have questions on this topic, please contact Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations and Retail Services, [email protected] or 360-200-6452.
Learn more about the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act protections and other relevant topics on L&I’s website.
The website also includes an Employer Resources web page with tools and resources to assist employers in being proactive and confirm their compliance with the requirements of the law.