Equal Pay Laws And Salary Disclosure

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Recent changes to the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA) now require employers with more than 15 employees to disclose the wage scale or salary range in all job postings for positions located in Washington, as well as a description of the benefits and other compensation to be offered.

Watch This Video To Learn More About The Washington State Equal Pay and Opportunites Act

What Is The Washington Equal Pay And Opportunities Act (EPOA)?

The Washington EPOA prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that lead to income inequalities between genders. While the law was originally created to level the playing field for women, it now offers a wide variety of protections for employees and job seekers of all genders.

In general, the Washington EPOA provides:

  • Equal pay and career advancement opportunities,
  • Open wage discussions,
  • Access to wage and salary information for employees and job seekers,
  • Salary history privacy, and
  • Protection from retaliation.

All employees and job applicants in Washington state have rights under the EPOA.

The law makes it illegal for employers to base an employee’s pay or career advancement opportunities on their gender. The law also gives workers the right to discuss their wages freely without fear of retaliation and access certain wage and salary information.

Job applicants are also entitled to many of the same legal protections as employees. For example, employers are not allowed to ask an applicant for their salary history or require that an applicant’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria to be considered for the job.

How Does EPOA Promote Equal Pay And Equal Career Advancements?

Under equal pay laws, gender cannot be used as a basis for pay differences between employees with similar jobs. Determining whether employees have similar jobs must be based on skill, effort, and responsibility, not just on job titles. Additionally, employers cannot limit or deprive employees of career advancement opportunities based on gender.

In some cases, however, there are some exceptions where differences in pay or career advancement opportunities may be acceptable under the law, such as the following:

  • Differences in education, training, or experience
  • Seniority
  • Work performance
  • Measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production
  • Regional differences in compensation
  • Differences in local minimum wages
  • Job-related factors consistent with business needs

Washington Salary Disclosure Laws

The law also protects employees and job applicants when it comes to sharing salary information.

Can Employees Discuss Wages In The Workplace?

Yes. Under the updated Washington EPOA, it’s illegal for employers to prevent employees from sharing or discussing their wages. Employers cannot ask employees to sign wage confidentiality agreements. However, if an employee’s job gives them access to other employees’ wage information (such as Human Resources), the employer can require that employee to keep other employees’ pay information confidential.

Furthermore, employers cannot punish employees for discussing wages, filing a complaint, testifying in a proceeding related to the law, or exercising other protected rights granted under the EPOA. Additionally, employers cannot retaliate against employees who ask about their wages or lack of opportunity for advancement.

If an employer violates your rights, you may be entitled to a payment of $5,000 or more, plus attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.

How Can I Get Wage Or Salary Information?

If you are offered an internal transfer or promotion, you can request your employer to provide you with the wage scale or salary range for the new position. If the company has at least 15 employees, the employer must provide the wage scale or salary range for the new position upon request.

If an employer does not provide the wage scale or salary range to you upon request, or if the employer retaliates against you, you could be entitled to a payment of $5,000 or more, plus attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.

Am I Required To Share My Wage And Salary History With A Prospective Employer?

No. Employers cannot ask you for your wage or salary history, nor can employers require that an applicant’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria. If they do, you may be entitled to a payment of $5,000 or more, plus attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.

You can voluntarily share your wage or salary history with prospective employers if you choose, but, again, they cannot ask you for the information.

Consequences For Violating Equal Pay Laws

There is no excuse for employers not to follow the law—not only will they be responsible for paying fines and damages to the wronged employee, but infringements of their employees’ rights will also hurt their reputation and business. Additionally, if your employer breaks the salary transparency law, you could be entitled to $5,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always stop employers from discriminating against their employees and violating their rights.

Washington State Salary Transparency Law

Every worker deserves a fair wage. Salary transparency builds trust and improves employee morale while also creating a competitive job market for job searchers and current employees. Here’s what you need to know about the updated salary transparency law.

What Are The Salary Transparency Requirements For Washington State Jobs?

Whether printed or digital, job postings in Washington state must list a clear salary range or hourly rate.

  • Ranges such as $50,000-$75,000 per year or $16-$20 per hour based on experience are ok, anything open-ended, like $50,000 per year and up, is not.
  • Jobs that pay by commission or piece rates must clearly state the rate, i.e., 3-5% commission of net sale price or $0.50-$0.75 per pound of produce picked.
  • Additionally, any benefits that are part of the compensation package (medical, dental, vision, stock options, etc.) must be listed; however, a dollar value for those benefits is not required.
  • One thing to note: if the job posting doesn’t provide clear salary information but provides a link to learn more about the job, the link must provide salary ranges.

Employers cannot avoid the law by excluding Washington state citizens from the job listing.

What Happens If The Job Posting Doesn’t List The Salary?

The updated Washington state salary transparency law requirements allow job seekers to sue for actual damages; statutory damages equal to the actual damages or $5,000, whichever is greater; interest of one percent per month; and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Employers could also face fines from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) for violating the law.

What to Do If You Apply For A Job In Washington State And The Salary Isn’t Posted

If you live in and applied for a job in Washington state after January 1, 2023, and the job posting did not list clear salary or pay information, here’s what you should do:

  1. Take a screenshot of the job posting.
  2. Save the job application.
  3. Save any correspondence with the employer
  4. Call Emery | Reddy PLLC’s legal team to speak with an experienced Intake Specialist for a Free Case Review and to learn how we may be able to help you with your claim.

How Do I Pursue A Violation Of EPOA?

You have options when it comes to pursuing a violation of the Washington EPOA; you can file a complaint with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) submit a tip for a non-compliant job posting, or file a civil suit.

Reporting An EPOA Violation To L&I

To file a complaint with L&I against an employer (or former employer) for violating the EPOA, you must complete an EPOA complaint form and send it to them by mail, bring the complaint to your nearest L&I office, or submit the form to L&I’s secure file upload. You may include additional documentation and evidence of the violation. This can include paystubs, emails, texts, or official correspondence. After receiving your complaint, L&I will investigate the employer and determine if there has been a violation. L&I may impose fines against the employer.

EPOA Complaint Form

Mail your complaint form and documentation to the following address or drop it off at your nearest L&I office:

Department of Labor & Industries

Employment Standards

P.O. Box 44510

Olympia, WA 98504-4510

While Labor and Industries (L&I) is empowered to investigate EPOA violations, the wheels of bureaucracy often turn slowly; it could be a long time before they make any decisions on your complaint. L&I will try to collect any money owed to you by the employer, but they make no promises that they will be able to collect it. Additionally, L&I must notify the employer that you filed a complaint; L&I will not investigate anonymous complaints.

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Consequences for Violating Equal Pay Laws

There is no excuse for employers not to follow the law—not only will they be responsible for paying fines and damages to the wronged employee, but infringements of their employees’ rights will also hurt their reputation and business. Additionally, if your employer breaks the salary transparency law, you could be entitled to $5,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always stop employers from discriminating against their employees and violating their rights.

Hiring An Attorney And Filing A Civil Suit

If you don’t want to file a complaint with L&I, you can always hire an experienced employment law attorney to help you sue an employer instead. In a civil lawsuit, the may be awarded damages, statutory penalties, interest, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Why Choose Emery | Reddy?

If you believe your rights have been violated under the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act or the Washington Salary Transparency Law, contact Emery | Reddy, PLLC for a free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist. Talking to an Intake Specialist before contacting L&I will help you understand all your options and help you make the best choice for your situation.

Standing up to an employer who violated your rights can often feel scary and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With more than two decades’ worth of experience, we know what it takes to hold employers accountable. We’ve won tens of millions of dollars for clients dealing with workers’ rights violations. Find out how we can help you too—call our legal team now to find out if you have a case and what next steps are available to you.

Want More Information?

Wage And Hour Violations

Everyone deserves to be paid fairly and on time. Unfortunately, some employers disregard Washington state employment laws and don’t pay their employees what they are owed, resulting in wage and hour violations.

Whistleblower Retaliation

A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal, unsafe, or unethical practices by a company. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees, and Washington state has laws in place that protect whistleblowers, in particular.

Wrongful Termination

While Washington is at an at-will employment state, it is still possible to be unlawfully fired. If you believe you are a victim of wrongful termination, you need an aggressive and experienced legal team to fight for the justice you deserve.

Meet The Team

The Seattle EPOA and Salary Transparency Law attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC are passionate about helping workers with employment law issues and L&I claims. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and what drives us every day.

We know how companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our EPOA and Salary Transparency Law attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help protect employee rights and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an employment law issue, injury, or L&I claim, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

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Timothy W. Emery

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Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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