On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in Freyd v. University of Oregon. Jennifer Freyd, a professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, filed a class action lawsuit in March 2017 alleging gender-based pay differences in violation of the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and other statutes. Freyd asserted that the University paid her less than four male colleagues in her department and that the University’s retention award policy had a disproportionate impact on the University’s female psychology professors. In May 2019, the District Court granted Defendants’ motions for summary judgment, and Freyd subsequently appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. READ MORE
Clients trust Alex to defend them in high-stakes employment and class action litigation. To guide clients forward, Alex blends her legislative policy background and employment litigation experience to frame tailored solutions based on the client's business goals and needs.
Alex's practice covers all aspects of employment law, specializing in class action defense, complex employment litigation, and pay equity. She has extensive experience with single plaintiff and multi-plaintiff litigation, class actions, collective actions, and representative actions involving wage and hour claims (including misclassification, Fair Labor Standards Act, and California Private Attorneys General Act claims) and discrimination and harassment claims (including Title VII, Equal Pay Act, and California Fair Employment and House Act claims). Alex also counsels employers on a wide variety of employment issues from hiring practices to terminations, and helps her clients draft employee handbooks, arbitration agreements, and other policies. She provides routine training to employers on employment law topics including equal pay, and new workplace compliance requirements.
Posts by: Alex Guerra
The State of New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights (“DCR”) recently issued new Guidance on the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act (“EPA”). The EPA, which took effect July 1, 2018, was already the most sweeping equal pay legislation in the nation by strengthening already existing equal pay protections found in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). As Governor Murphy announced on March 2, 2020, the Guidance goes even further and “make[s] clear our intentions to eliminate discriminatory pay practices in the Garden State that have historically prevented women and other marginalized groups from earning their fair share.” READ MORE
The New York State Department of Labor has created a website to provide guidance on the state’s recent Salary History Ban. We previously reported on the state’s Salary History Ban in detail here after it was passed by the New York legislature. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the salary history ban into law on July 10, 2019 and it went into effect on January 6, 2020. The new website summarizes the Salary History Ban by explaining that, “The new law prohibits all employers – both public and private – from asking prospective or current employees about their salary history and compensation. It also prohibits businesses from seeking similar information from other sources.” READ MORE
Oregon employers looking to evaluate their pay equity picture in 2020 should be aware of a handful of updates to the state’s equal pay law that went into effect on January 1.
Oregon overhauled its law in 2017, expanding its coverage beyond sex-based pay differentials and modifying the standard for comparators whose pay must be equal absent a legitimate business justification. SB123 makes a handful of small but potentially significant changes:
- Existing law provided that pay differentials can be justified based on a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production. The amendment adds a statutory definition of “system”: “a consistent and verifiable method in use at the time that a violation is alleged.” Correspondingly, the more onerous definition of “system” that had appeared in OAR 839-008-0015 was repealed.
- Existing law included a limited statutory safe harbor provision (ORS 652.235), which authorizes a motion to disallow compensatory and punitive damages in suits under the state’s equal pay law if an employer has completed a good faith “equal-pay analysis” within three years pre-suit. That provision was revised to require that a qualifying equal-pay analysis include “a review of practices designed to eliminate unlawful wage differentials.” The revision also requires an employer attempting to avail itself of the safe harbor to show that it has “made reasonable and substantial progress toward eliminating unlawful wage differentials for the employer’s employees.” The revision eliminates reference to the specific protected class asserted by a particular plaintiff and instead addresses unlawful wage differentials more generally.
- The new law provides that evidence that an employer increased an employee’s pay as a result of conducting an equal-pay analysis may not be considered as an admission of liability in an equal pay case under state law.
- The law authorizes pay differences where an employee performs modified work due to a compensable injury or medical condition, alleviating concerns employers might have had about pay disparities in such circumstances.
- Finally, the amendment expressly addresses unionized workforces, providing that pay differences can be justified if one or more of the enumerated statutory defenses is contained in a collective bargaining agreement. This amendment may represent an effort to address concerns previously expressed by Oregon employers who employ both non-unionized employees and members of unions that bargain for pay rates along with other conditions of work. But it is unclear what impact it will have given that the amended law continues to require that the pay differences be tied to one of the previously enumerated defenses.
We will continue to monitor developments and amendments in Oregon and report on them here.
As you’ll recall from our extensive coverage of the EEO-1 pay data collection saga (which we previously reported on here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), private employers, including federal contractors, have been busy collecting and submitting EEO-1 pay data to the EEOC. The deadline for submissions was initially set for May 31, 2019, but has since been extended multiple times. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the EEOC must continue its collection efforts until it has collected from at least 98.3% of eligible reporters and must make all efforts to do so by January 31, 2020. READ MORE
Orrick’s Equal Pay Pulse has been tracking the nationwide wave of salary history bans in recent years. A growing number of states and territories now have laws restricting the use of salary history information, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Washington. Illinois became the latest state to catch this wave with a recent amendment to the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003. READ MORE
The Irish government is making pay equity a priority and is looking to join the trend of other countries across the world requiring employers’ regular reporting of wages. The lower house of the Irish legislature recently published a bill that, if passed this year, would require certain employers in Ireland to report gender pay data as soon as 2020. READ MORE
While many states across the U.S. continue to develop new equal pay laws, it is also important for global companies to be aware of equal pay laws abroad. Countries far and wide including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Iceland and South Africa have instituted various forms of laws addressing pay equity issue. While these laws have varying requirements, we look at Australia as an example of the global picture. READ MORE
In the wake of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Rizo v. Yovino, key employer-side groups have expressed support for U.S. Supreme Court review to determine whether employers who rely on prior salary to set starting pay can continue to do so consistent with the federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (“EPA”). READ MORE
A growing number of state and local governments have passed equal pay laws in recent years. These statutes and ordinances have varied in their specific content and have created a patchwork of legal requirements vexing employers who are attempting to comply. Two states have added wrinkles to this patchwork. While many of the obligations have favored employees, Massachusetts and Oregon have attempted to tip the scales to employers by creating “safe harbor” provisions aimed at providing some form of relief for employers who perform voluntary pay audits and correct any adverse findings through “safe harbor” provisions. These provisions, however, raise significant questions that employers must consider before concluding that they are fully protected. READ MORE