For the last two decades, Congressional Democrats have attempted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Beginning with the 105th Congress in 1997-98, several legislators have introduced versions of the act, including then-Senator Hillary Clinton in 2005. Following their newly won majority in the House of Representatives, Democratic lawmakers recently re-introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act on January 30, 2019. The proposed bill, H.R. 7, was introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D) and appears to have considerable Congressional support. Notably, cosponsors of H.R. 7 include every Democratic member of the House of Representatives and forty-five Senators. READ MORE
Equality between men and women has been declared in France a “great national cause” of Emmanuel Macron’s Presidency in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
In March 2018, the French government unveiled an action plan for gender equality in the workplace consisting of ten measures aiming at reducing the gender pay gap and five measures to fight sexual and gender based violence. READ MORE
On 4 April 2019, employers with 250 or more employees will, once again, have to publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap. And, following a year packed full of political statements and unprecedented movement towards gender equality, there will undoubtedly be pressure on employers to demonstrate progress in closing the gap. READ MORE
On January 1, 2019 at the stroke of midnight, Hawaii joined a growing list of states and municipalities to ban prospective employers from asking applicants about their prior salary history. As we have previously reported, several other jurisdictions have already passed similar laws that place restrictions on salary history during the application process, including California, New York City, Westchester, and Suffolk County, New York. READ MORE
Joining New York City, Westchester, and Albany, the Suffolk County Legislature, on November 20, 2018, adopted its own variation of a salary history ban.
Echoing an increasingly familiar refrain, another district court has declined to certify a class of women bringing pay equity claims on the basis that they did not present a common question capable of producing a common answer to “the crucial question why was I disfavored.” Relying largely upon Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the court found certification inappropriate because the putative class members were subject to countless independent decisions involving the judgment and discretion of individual managers. The case also serves as another reminder that courts (including California state courts) will not accept an overly simplistic analysis comparing broad job categories or titles, but will continue to look at actual business practices and job responsibilities to ensure comparators are “similarly situated” so a meaningful pay comparison can be made. READ MORE
As part of its effort to close gender-based pay gaps, California will now require companies to increase female representation on boards of directors.
Currently, one in four publicly held corporations in California have no women on their boards of directors. SB 826, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law at the end of September, requires that all publicly held corporations based in California have at least one woman director by December 31, 2019. That is not the end of the requirements; by December 31, 2021, companies with five authorized directors must have a minimum of two female board members, and companies with at least six directors must have a minimum of three females on the board. The California Secretary of State will publish the names of compliant and non-compliant companies on an annual basis. In addition to the “name and shame” provisions, non-compliant companies face fines of $100,000 for the first violation and $300,000 for subsequent violations. READ MORE
As we reported last month, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued proposed regulations interpreting the provisions of the new Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017, which will become effective January 1, 2019.
On November 19, 2018, after receiving a number of comments on proposed rules BOLI filed final rules with the Secretary of State. Stakeholders that provided input on the potential impact of the rules as originally proposed ranged from large law firms and industry groups to small business owners and farmers, as well as multiple higher education institutions (including Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and the Oregon Community College Association).
Some of the noteworthy changes between the proposed and final rules are that the final rules:
- Added the language “regardless of job description or job title” in the definition of “work of comparable character,” thus emphasizing that job title or written job description alone cannot establish that any two employees are (or aren’t) “substantially similar.” OAR 839-008-0000(17).
- Clarified in OAR 839-008-0005(2) what it means to “screen job applications based on current or past compensation.” In particular, the final rules narrow the scope of this language to make clear that the prohibition of “screen[ing]” in ORS 652.220(1)(c) bars only the consideration of current or past compensation to determine “a job applicant’s eligibility or suitability for employment.” By contrast, the draft rules had proposed that prohibited “screen[ing]” would include any use “to group, sort, or select [employees] at any stage of the hiring process,” or to assess “[a] current employee’s eligibility for an internal transfer, move or hire to a new position with the same employer.” This narrowing makes clear that the limits of the new prohibition on using prior pay to “screen.”
- Added “creativity” and “precision” as examples of the type of “skill” considerations to be evaluated in determining whether any two employees do, in fact, perform “work of a comparable character.” OAR 839-008-0010(1)(b).
- Eliminated language in proposed rule OAR 839-008-0010(2) that would have stated that “[m]inor differences in knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions will not prevent jobs from being comparable.” This change is consistent with comments submitted by a host of employers—including NFIB Oregon (a non-profit advocacy group for small businesses), the Oregon Farm Bureau, and Oregon Business & Industry—who expressed concern that the “minor differences” language could create confusion and be read to conflict with the statutory standard of “substantially similar.”
- Revised OAR 839-008-0010(2) to make clear that “[e]valuations of work of comparable character need only consider comparisons of Oregon employees.”
- Eliminated the proposed “Equal-Pay Analyses Surveys” rule.
A number of concerns expressed by commentators went unaddressed in the final rules, however. Several commenters requested, but BOLI has not yet provided, a “pay calculation” tool akin to that provided by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. In addition, commentators noted that the new law includes as “protected classes” several groups on which employers may not routinely collect demographic information (e.g., sexual orientation or marital status), which make it impossible for employers to proactively monitor pay differentials across these groups which the law purports to prohibit. And a number of others asked the rules to clarify the law regarding pay differentials that may exist between employees in collective bargaining units and those outside those units, yet the final rules do not speak to the issue.
By and large, though, Oregon employers should be heartened by these changes. They eliminate some of the more problematic provisions of the rules as originally proposed and underscore the fact-specific analysis of work performed needed to determine whether employees in fact perform “work of comparable character” within the meaning of the new law.
Orrick will continue to monitor additional developments in interpreting and applying the new law as it takes effect, and to advise employers in Oregon on compliance strategies in light of the new law.
In recent years, the volume of equal pay lawsuits has continued to increase in Silicon Valley, despite technology companies reaffirming their commitment to equal pay policies and practices. Earlier this month, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (“HP”) was hit with the latest equal pay lawsuit. The class action lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, alleges that HP discriminated against its female workers by paying them less than their male counterparts and funneling women into certain jobs based on stereotypes. READ MORE
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has issued proposed regulations interpreting the provisions of the new Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017, which will become effective January 1, 2019. Although the prohibition against “seek[ing]” salary history from applicants already is in effect, many of the law’s most significant provisions go into effect on January 1. READ MORE