Washington State has become the latest state to sign into law legislation that bolsters pay equity requirements for employees starting in june.
The new law prohibits pay discrimination based on gender between employees who are “similarly employed,” and prohibits retaliation for certain workplace discussions that ask employees to disclose their wages. The state added a new wrinkle by also prohibiting employers from limiting or depriving career advancement based on gender by not providing access to career advancement opportunities or to training that would allow such advancement.
The bill noted that women in Washington State lost $11 billion because of the wage gap last year. Seattle has one of the worst gaps at 73 cents for every dollar, and for some women of color it is 46 cents for every dollar.
New Jersey is following right behind Washington in addressing pay equity. The state legislature has voted to expand its pay equity laws to make it easier for women and minorities to undertake legal claims of pay discrimination against employers, effective July 1. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act makes New Jersey one of the first states to institute an equal pay law that applies protections to all classes of employees that are protected under the state’s anti-discrimination law, including discrimination based on gender, disabilities, or race. It also expands the damages employees can collect from employers if they win equal pay litigation. Gov. Phil Murphy has said he will sign the legislation into law on April 24.
One of the first acts taken by the state’s new Democratic governor this year was to sign an executive order promoting equal pay for women that went into effect on February 1. Executive Order # 1 prohibits state agencies and offices from asking or investigating a job applicant’s past wage history, until that public entity has made a conditional offer of employment. At the time, Murphy said the move would ensure that state employees receive salaries that are commensurate with their skills, qualifications, and experience. According to a press release issued by the Governor’s office, women in New Jersey working full-time earn, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man in a full-time position. According to research from the National Partnership for Women and Families, wage inequality leads to a combined loss of $32.5 billion.
At least 15 states are implementing new laws in 2018 to bolster pay equity, including bans on salary history, gender discrimination, retaliation, paid leave, and even protections for workers who are victims of domestic violence. Another 9 states are considering passing pay equity-related laws this year.
Florida and New Hampshire are among the states that have pay equity bills drafted that include bans on disclosure of past salary history for consideration during their respective 2018 state legislative sessions.
Corporations are taking cues as well. Citigroup in January became the first bank to publicly provide detailed reports on the pay gap between male and female employees across race and ethnicity. The bank says it has taken necessary measures to ensure that pay is equal across their company, even filling in pay gaps as they find them through careful analysis. On its blog, the bank said its analysis found that women working at Citi are paid on average 99% of what men are paid and minorities are paid on average 99% of what non-minorities are paid.
Employers should try to get ahead of this trend by reviewing job hiring processes and paperwork to see if their companies’ practices are on top of new trends in pay equity law, including such practices as the avoidance of asking applicants about their previous salary or criminal history. The demand for pay equality is only going to grow, thereby continuing to put pressure on legislators at all levels to consider implementing similar pay equity legislation across the country.