Updates to law bars employers from asking pay history

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Updates made to the state’s Equal Pay and Opportunities Act, which take effect July 28, bars employers from requesting a job applicant’s wage or salary history, except under certain circumstances.

The law also makes it illegal, in most cases, for employers to request wage or salary history from a previous employer before offering an applicant a job and negotiating a salary. The ban on requesting salary history applies to all Washington employers regardless of size. The requirement to disclose salary information to certain applicants and employees applies only to Washington employers with 15 or more workers.

Under the changes, current employees who are offered an internal transfer, a new position or a promotion must be shown the new job’s wage scale or salary range if they request it.

If no wage scale or salary range exists, the employer must show the employee the “minimum wage or salary expectation” that was set before the job was posted or a transfer or promotion was offered.

Employers must also show job applicants the minimum wage or salary of the position they are applying for if they request it after being offered the position.

Under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act, current employees and job applicants have the right to file a claim with the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) if they believe their rights have been violated.

Employees can file a complaint if their current or former employer has:

  • Provided them with unequal compensation compared to other employees who are similarly employed, based on gender.
  • Limited or denied their career advancement opportunities, based on gender.
  • Prohibited them from discussing wages.
  • Not provided wage or salary information for a new position upon request.
  • Retaliated against them for filing a complaint or exercising protected rights under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act.

Job applicants can file a complaint if an employer has:

  • Sought their wage or salary history.
  • Required that their wage or salary history meet certain criteria — such as requiring a minimum salary amount in a previous position to apply for a new position.
  • Not provided minimum wage or salary information upon request for a position offered to them.

L&I recommends that Washington employers review job applications and other hiring documentation to confirm that any requests for or references to job applicants’ salary history are removed.

Employers should also ensure they can provide specific information about the minimum wages or salaries, or wage scales or salary ranges to applicants and employees upon request.

Washington joins California and Oregon as the third West Coast state to pass legislation prohibiting such inquiries.

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