Washington State Enacts Gender Pay Equity Legislation

March 23, 2018

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill that aims to close the gender pay gap by prohibiting discrimination based on gender through wage differentials between "similarly employed" individuals.  The bill also prohibits limiting employees' discussion of their wages or retaliating against any employee who does.  According to the bill, employees are similarly employed if they work for the same employer, their jobs require similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.  The legislation states that an individual's previous wage or salary history will not suffice as defense under the statute.  However, the bill distinguishes between pay discrimination and differences in compensation based "in good faith on a bona fide job-related factor or factors," including those that are consistent with job necessity, that are not based on or derived from a gender-based differential, and that account for the entire differential.  Washington State Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), who sponsored the bill, said, "It sends a message to business that we, as a state, mean business and they should take another look and make sure they don’t have pay secrecy policies, and make sure they are paying their men and women equally."  Governor Inslee also signed this week two measures addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, on which HR Policy recently reported