Employers face increasing demands and pressure to ensure and declare equitable pay for employees, not only from within their own workforces, but also from clients, customers, and government leaders. While states continue passing increasingly progressive pay equity laws, the requirements of such laws may not align with the purpose and intent of federal or state equal pay laws. Employers should be mindful of the risks associated with how state agencies may use pay data collections and be prepared to explain their practices and provide further response, if needed. READ MORE
Erin M. Connell, Co-chair of Orrick's EEO & OFCCP Compliance Group and Pay Equity Task Force, represents employers in high stakes employment litigation and is a leader in equal employment opportunity law, pay equity, and OFCCP compliance.
Erin's practice covers all aspects of employment law. She defends employers in class actions and other complex cases, as well as in systemic investigations and audits by the EEOC, OFCCP, and the California CRD. Erin has led dozens of internal pay equity analyses and is a trusted advisor for several of the nation's most prominent employers on developing areas of employment law, including pay equity and pay transparency, DEI best practices, and the use of AI in employment decision making.
Erin also is an accomplished first chair trial lawyer. She has tried several cases before juries and in arbitration, and has obtained numerous defense summary judgment rulings and other favorable resolutions in state and federal court. Erin led the trial team that obtained a complete dismissal for Oracle in OFCCP v. Oracle, the largest pay equity case ever brought by OFCCP, which garnered national media attention and earned Erin recognition as a "Litigator of the Week" by the American Lawyer and a 2021 Employment MVP by Law360. As lead counsel, Erin also successfully obtained decertification in a statewide California pay equity class action, Jewett v. Oracle.
Erin's clients include leading technology and Fortune 500 companies, including: Oracle, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter, Workday, PayPal, Sony Interactive Entertainment, NVIDIA, Airbnb, SiriusXM, Dropbox, Amgen, Zendesk, Splunk and Goldman Sachs.
Erin is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Bar Association of San Francisco, a faculty member with the Institute for Workplace Equality (IWE), and frequently speaks on California and national employment law issues, including for IWE, the ABA, the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) and the American Employment Legal Council (AELC). She was formerly the management chair of the ABA Equal Employment Opportunity Committee. She has published numerous articles on employment law in publications around the country, including the ABA Journal of Law & Employment Law. She also provides employment law training and conducts internal investigations on employment-related matters.
Posts by: Erin Connell
As COVID-19 vaccination programs gain speed across the country, and employers consider long-term reopening plans, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that starting April 26, 2021, it will begin the EEO-1 data collections it had delayed for nearly a year due to the pandemic. Recognizing the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, however, it is providing twelve weeks (instead of just 10) to complete submissions. Employers will need to submit two years of data (for 2019 and 2020) by Monday, July 19, 2021. Unlike the last time, employers will not need to submit “Component 2” pay data (as we reported here).
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) has issued new guidance on the pay data reporting law enacted in September (see our coverage here) that established at the state level the equivalent of the EEOC’s discontinued EEO-1 pay data collection form. The law requires that starting March 31, 2021 every California employer with 100 or more employees who files a federal EEO-1 report must annually submit a pay data report to the DFEH.
On November 5, 2020, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) issued a final rule defining the evidentiary standards it will use for proving discrimination claims by federal contractors, revising the process for notifying contractors of potential violations, and outlining an option for contractors to participate in an “expedited” dispute resolution process. It will take effect on December 10, 2020. Notably, the rule deviates significantly from the version initially proposed by OFCCP on December 30, 2019, which relied far more heavily on statistics and came under intense scrutiny from the contractor community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to OFCCP, the requirements laid out in the final rule will increase transparency and create clear parameters for contractor compliance with equal employment opportunity laws. READ MORE
On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newson signed SB 973, making California the first state to require employers to submit employee pay data by race and gender. As we previously reported, SB 973 is modeled after the now discontinued federal EEO-1 pay data collection form, which was harshly criticized for its heavy burden on employers and lack of utility in assessing for pay equity or pay discrimination (see prior Equal Pay Pulse blogs here, here, here, and here).
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and a nationwide push towards greater equality, transparency and accountability, the California legislature this week passed a bill (SB 973) that would establish at the state level the equivalent of the EEOC’s discontinued EEO-1 pay data collection form. If signed by Governor Newsom, SB 973 would require that starting March 31, 2021 every California employer with 100 or more employees who files a federal EEO-1 report must annually submit a pay data report to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) that discloses: (1) the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex in each of ten broad job categories, and (2) the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex whose annual earnings (defined as W-2 income) fall within each of the pay bands used by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. Employers with multiple establishments must submit a consolidated report, as well as a report for each establishment. READ MORE
On July 16, the EEOC announced plans to fund an independent study to evaluate pay data submitted by employers for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 through Component 2 of the EEO-1 form, both to inform potential next steps for the data, as well as to guide any potential future collections. As we reported last March, after a tumultuous history, the EEOC decided against renewing its request for authorization to continue collecting pay data under Component 2 of the EEO-1 form, which reflected employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, broken down by gender, ethnicity, and race. The EEOC’s decision in March ended a four-year saga – including litigation – over whether the pay data collection would go forward at all. Much of the controversy stemmed from critiques that the burden and confidentiality concerns implicated by the Component 2 submissions outweighed any potential benefit, particularly given the form’s reliance on W-2 earnings (as opposed to base pay or total compensation awarded for work performed in a given year), combined with the breadth of the pay bands and job categories used, as well as the inability for most employers to accurately track or report hours worked by exempt employees (as we reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Despite last March’s announcement, the EEOC has not stated whether or how it plans to use the data it already has collected. READ MORE
Today, the EEOC formally confirmed that it will not renew its request for authorization to collect employer’s pay data under Component 2 of the EEO-1 moving forward. The notice is consistent with its announcement last September, marking the end of a four-year saga over whether the pay data collection would go ahead (as we reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Notably, the notice does not explain how the EEOC intends to use the pay data it already has collected, although it makes reference to using it in Title VII proceedings. It does, however, confirm the EEOC’s intentions regarding sharing the EEO-1 pay data, including that the EEOC does not intend to share it with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), but under certain circumstances may share it with state and local fair employment practices agencies (“FEPAs”). The notice also provides guidance regarding a potential pay data collection by the EEOC in the future, including that the EEOC intends to “develop a plan for using pay data before initiating any data collection.” READ MORE
In yet another development in the closely watched case of Rizo v. Yovino, the en banc Ninth Circuit ruled that employers may not defeat a plaintiff’s prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) by arguing prior pay is a “factor other than sex” within the meaning of the statute. By doing so, the Ninth Circuit reaches the same result as the previous opinion penned by the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt before his passing in 2018, including overruling Kouba v. Allstate, a prior Ninth Circuit opinion that held that prior pay could justify pay differentials in combination with other factors, and if relied upon reasonably and to effectuate a business policy. The majority opinion further holds that as a matter of statutory interpretation, a “factor other than sex” within the meaning of the EPA must be “job related,” yet it also makes clear that the EPA does not prohibit employers from considering prior pay in making starting pay offers (and in this regard differentiates the opinion from California’s salary history ban). Two separate concurring opinions agree with the result, but they criticize the majority opinion for giving too narrow a reading of the EPA’s fourth “catch all” defense and for embracing a view of prior pay that puts the Ninth Circuit at odds with other circuits and guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). READ MORE
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the EEOC may not discontinue its pay data collection efforts on November 11, 2019, but rather, 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. The ruling is the latest in a lengthy saga regarding whether EEO-1 Component 2 pay data (data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, and broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex) would be collected—a saga that began with the Office of Management and Budget staying collection efforts, and culminated last Spring when Judge Chutkan ruled the decision to stay the collection lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act (see overview here). After vacating the stay, Judge Chutkan initially set the deadline for data collection for May 31, 2019, but later extended it to September 30, 2019. READ MORE