Alex Guerra, an Associate in the Sacramento Office, is a member of the Employment Law & Litigation Group.
Alex focuses her practice on employment litigation and counseling. Alex defends employers in class action, multi-plaintiff, and single
plaintiff lawsuits on a variety of issues, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, misclassification,
and wage-and-hour claims. Orrick's Employment Law & Litigation group was recently named Labor & Employment Department of the Year in California by The Recorder in recognition of their significant wins on behalf of leading multinational companies on today's most complex and challenging employment law matters.
Before joining Orrick, Alex was active in
California politics. She helped manage presidential, congressional, and supervisorial
campaigns and held leadership positions within the youth arm of a major political party. Alex also interned for high-ranking members of the legislature, to include the Majority Whip of the California State Assembly and the President pro Tempore of the California State Senate. These experiences put Alex in a position to understand
the complexity of California’s employment laws and the varied interests
motivating these policies.
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 Correspondingly, the more onerous definition of “system” that had appeared in OAR 839-008-0015 was repealed.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