Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunities Act, first approved in 2018, provides important equality protections to employees and job applicants. The law (RCW 49.58) prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that contribute to unequal pay between employees of different genders.
Under the law, employee have the right to:
- Equal pay: Employers must provide equal compensation to similarly employed workers, except for some specific reasons unrelated to gender.
- Equal career advancement opportunities: Employers must not limit or provide career advancement opportunities to their employees on the basis of gender.
- Open wage discussions: Employers cannot prohibited employees from discussing or disclosing their wages with others or require them to sign agreements to prohibit wage discussion.
- Access to wage or salary information: Employers must provide an employee who is offered an internal transfer or promotion with the wage scale or salary range (or minimum wage if no range exists) of their new position, upon request. This requirement only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- Protections from discrimination, retaliation, and firing: Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for discussing wages, filing a complaint, or exercising other protected rights under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act.
Under the law, job applicant have the right to:
- Wage and salary privacy: Employers cannot seek the wage or salary history of an applicant
- Previous wage and salary history requirement protections: Employers cannot require an applicant’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria.
- Access to minimum wage or salary information: Employers must provide an applicant who is initially offered a position with the minimum wage or salary of the position, upon request. This requirement only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act is enforced by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Employees and job applicants can file a complaint against an employer (or former employer) for violating this law. L&I will investigate complaints and may charge employers fines, damages, and interest for violations. Employees and job applicants also have the right to take civil legal action against an employer. Once a civil complaint is filed in court, however, L&I cannot investigate the complaint.
If you have questions, contact L&I’s Equal Pay Specialist Cristina Evans at 360-485-2965 or Cristina.Evans@Lni.wa.gov.
For more information or to file a complaint, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/EqualPay.