On June 1, 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 (House Bill 2005). Although pay equity legislation has been proposed or passed in a number of jurisdictions throughout the country, Oregon’s new law merits special attention. The obligations it imposes on employers seeking to justify pay differentials are arguably among the strictest in the nation, but it also affords employers some key protections and potential safe harbors. Given the focus by government agencies and plaintiffs’ attorneys on pay equity in the technology sector out West, companies seeking to maintain or expand in the so-called “Silicon Forest” should pay special attention to the provisions of this new law.
We took a deep dive into the background and history of the legislation, and share some key observations about what it says—and doesn’t say—here. READ MORE
On April 5, 2017, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law prohibiting employers or their agents from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. The law also restricts an employer’s ability to rely upon that salary history in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process “including the negotiation of a contract.” The term “salary history” is defined to include current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation, but does not include “objective measures of the applicant’s productivity such as revenue, sales or other production reports.”
There are several notable exceptions to the law. READ MORE
Just less than a year ago, California adopted the Fair Pay Act (“FPA”), which took effect on January 1, 2016 and created some of the strongest equal pay protections in the nation. On September 30, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that expand the law even further.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has introduced before the New York City Council an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, if enacted, would prohibit employers from requesting or relying upon the salary history of an prospective employee in making starting salary and other pay decisions. In the bill summary, Public Advocate James and her co-sponsors conclude that when employers rely upon historical salary information, “they perpetuate the gender wage gap” and suggest that this legislation would “help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.” New York City’s proposed legislation follows closely on the heels of a wide-reaching pay equity statute recently enacted in Massachusetts that includes a prohibition on employers requesting or requiring applicants to provide their salary history.
Orrick partner Lauri Damrell collaborated with California Labor Commissioner Julie Su on a recent Op Ed column for the San Jose Mercury News outlining their joint efforts in California to address the gender pay gap. Damrell and Su are both members of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, and their column discussed their recent launch of the California Pay Equity Task Force to encourage more collaboration between employers and employees in finding solutions to the high-profile issue.
On August 1, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a pay equity bill which the Massachusetts Legislature passed by unanimous vote on July 23, 2016. The pay equity act is one of the strongest and most unique in the nation. Chief among the unique features is the prohibition on the use of prior salary in setting compensation and an affirmative defense for employers who conduct pay audits. The legislation differs from the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) and other recent state pay equity laws, including California and Maryland, in several ways.
Comparable Work Presents a Broader Standard
The EPA requires that men and women in the same workplace receive equal pay for “equal work.” “Equal work” means their jobs need not be identical, but “substantially equal.” The newly passed Massachusetts legislation only requires “comparable work,” meaning work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions. Thus, the legislation will give employees a larger pool of “comparator jobs” to point to should they feel underpaid in relation to their gender opposites. In fact, the “comparable work” standard appears to be similar to the broader-based standard used in pay-disparity claims under Title VII, except that Title VII also requires proof of intent. Recent Maryland and California laws also expand the pool of comparators. READ MORE
Statistics reveal a difference of 7 percent between the remuneration paid to men and that paid to women with the same qualifications in Germany. The average hourly wage even shows a difference of 22 percent, making pay discrepancy in Germany one of the highest in the EU. In order to adjust these wage injustices, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth submitted a first preliminary ministerial draft of the German Equal Pay Act (Entgeltgleichheitsgesetz) on December 9, 2015. The act is expected to be adopted in 2016.
Three months after the California Fair Pay Act took effect on January 1, 2016, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) has issued answers to FAQs about the new law, which by all counts is the most employee-friendly equal pay law in the nation. But for California employers who anxiously have been awaiting official guidance on the Act’s many new terms and standards, the FAQs provide little satisfaction. Rather, they focus more on informing employees on how to bring a claim. Nor has the DLSE otherwise spoken publicly about how it plans to enforce the new law; instead, the agency appears to be taking its time and exercising caution as it potentially sets the stage for the rest of the nation.
As California employers adjust to recent amendments to the state’s Equal Pay Act, additional changes are looming. As we reported here, last year, California adopted the Fair Pay Act, which provides new pay equity provisions related to employees of the opposite sex. Those amendments took effect on January 1, 2016. Now, California lawmakers are setting their sights on pay disparities based on race and ethnicity. On February 16, 2016, California Senator Isadore Hall III (D-South Bay) introduced Senate Bill 1063, known as the Wage Equality Act of 2016 (“SB 1063”), which seeks to expand pay equity requirements beyond sex to include race and ethnicity.
Last week President Obama continued his administration’s push to tackle pay equity issues by taking executive action to put federal contractors’ compensation practices under greater scrutiny. On April 8, 2014, the President signed a memorandum and executive order designed to address race and gender-based disparities in compensation. The memorandum directs the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to propose a rule within 120 days requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to submit “summary data” on employee compensation by race and sex to the DOL using a “tool” to be developed by the agency. The executive order signed along with the memorandum bans federal contractors from retaliating against employees for discussing their compensation with each another in an effort to “enhance the ability of Federal contractors and their employees to detect and remediate unlawful discriminatory practices” in pay. READ MORE