Equal Pay and Opportunities Act
Table of Contents
The Washington State Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA) seeks to address gaps in wages and advancement opportunities among employees and applicants by:
- prohibiting wage discrimination due to gender;
- requiring equal career advancement opportunities, not based on gender;
- prohibiting retaliation or discipline towards workers who discuss or ask about their own wages or the wages of any other employee;
- prohibiting an employer from seeking the wage or salary history of an applicant; and
- requiring employers to post the pay range and a general description of benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant for each job opening.
Employers cannot take any negative action against an employee for exercising their rights under the EPOA.
Employers must provide equal pay to similarly employed workers, except for specific reasons unrelated to gender such as:
- education, training, or experience;
- a seniority system;
- a merit system;
- measuring earnings by production quantity or quality; and
- a bona fide regional difference in compensation levels.
Other reasons for a difference in pay that may be acceptable include job-related factors consistent with business need, reasons not based on or derived from a gender differential, and local minimum wage laws. Under the law, an individual’s previous wage or salary history is not an acceptable reason for differences in pay among similarly employed workers.
Employees are similarly employed if the individuals work for the same employer, the performance of the job requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions. Job titles or job profiles alone are not determinative of whether employees are similarly employed.
Equal career advancement opportunities
Employers must not limit or deprive an employee of career advancement opportunities based on gender except for specific reasons unrelated to gender such as:
- differences in education, training, or experience;
- merit/work performance; and
- measuring earnings by production quantity or quality.
Other reasons for a difference in career advancement opportunities that may be acceptable include job-related factors consistent with business need and reasons not based on or derived from a gender differential.
Open wage discussions
Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing their wages with other workers, make employees agree not to discuss their wages or require an employee to sign a document that prevents the employee from disclosing the amount of their wages.
Employees who have access to compensation information of other employees or applicants as part of their essential job functions are prohibited from disclosing the wages of the other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to such information, unless the disclosure is in response to a complaint or charge, in furtherance of an investigation, or consistent with the employer’s legal duty to provide the information and the disclosure is part of the employee’s essential job functions.
Job applicant rights
Prohibition on seeking wage or salary history
When recruiting applicants for open positions, employers may not
- Ask an applicant for wage or salary history;
- Ask an applicant’s current or former employer for wage or salary history;
- Require an applicant’s prior wage or salary meet certain criteria, e.g., meet a certain level or threshold.
An employer may, however, confirm an applicant’s wage or salary history if the applicant has voluntarily disclosed their wage or salary history or after the employer has negotiated and extended an offer of employment with compensation to the final candidate.
Pay transparency for job postings
Employers must disclose in each posting for each job opening the pay range, and a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant. A job posting is any solicitation intended to recruit job applicants for a specific available position, either electronic or hard-copy, that includes qualifications for desired applicants. This includes electronic postings in UWHIRES or Handshake as well as those made through a third-party such as LinkedIn or Indeed.com.
Upon request from an employee offered an internal transfer to a new position or promotion, the employer must provide the wage scale or salary posting.