State Equal Pay Protections

Striking Out the “Catch-All”: Growing Number of States Narrow Affirmative Defenses for Employers in Pay Equity Cases

The federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) and its many state analogs require equal pay for equal (or, in some states, “substantially similar”) work.  The EPA contains a so-called “catch-all” defense to equal pay claims, permitting wage differentials if employers can show that they are “based on any factor other than [protected category].”  But this catch-all defense has been under scrutiny in courts and legislatures around the country. As we recently reported, an en banc Ninth Circuit rejected an employer’s argument that sole reliance on prior pay could be a “factor other than sex” within the meaning of the EPA. The Ninth Circuit’s finding is an outlier among circuit courts in this respect, but it fits a broader trend to narrow the “catch-all” affirmative defense, particularly at the state level. READ MORE

New Guidance Available for New Jersey Employers About the State’s Equal Pay Act

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

Pay Equity Developments in the Mid-Atlantic

The past month has brought notable pay equity developments to the Mid-Atlantic, including pending legislation in Maryland, and a Third Circuit decision that might have far-reaching effects beyond the Philadelphia salary history ban that it upheld. READ MORE

Philadelphia Wage History Ordinance Green-Lighted

On February 6, 2020 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a Philadelphia pay equity ordinance banning employers from inquiring into prospective employees’ prior pay or relying on prior pay in making compensation decisions unless candidates knowingly and willingly disclose the information. In upholding the ordinance, the Third Circuit vacated a lower court decision that enjoined enforcement of the inquiry provision on the grounds that it violated employers’ First Amendment free speech rights. While the Third Circuit acknowledged that the ordinance implicated First Amendment rights, the court found that there was “a plethora of evidence” provided by the city to meet its burden of clearing intermediate scrutiny for commercial speech. Consequently, it was reasonable for the city to conclude that the inquiry provision would address gender and race-based wage gaps based on experiments, witness testimony, and historical research concluding as much. READ MORE

New Guidance Available for New York Employers About the Recent Salary History Ban

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 Updates Equal Pay Law for 2020

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.

Legislative Update: Illinois is the Latest State to Join Nationwide Trend of Salary History Ban Laws

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

Legislative Update: Washington, New Jersey Join Nationwide Trend of Salary History Ban Laws

This year has seen states enact a litany of laws aimed at addressing pay equity issues, chief among them salary history bans. We previously reported on these issues here, here, and here. Mid-way through 2019, more and more states continue moving full speed ahead with legislation to bar employers from asking about candidates’ prior salary during the hiring process. Since our last report on this topic, the latest newcomers in this area are Washington and New Jersey. These states (like others) have expressly justified these bans based on legislative findings that “[t]he long-held business practice of inquiring about salary history has contributed to persistent earning inequalities” (see H.B. 1696, § 3(a), 66th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash. 2019) (enacted)), while courts evaluating such provisions have found that “more is needed” to establish the presumed connection. See Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia v. City of Philadelphia, 319 F. Supp. 3d 773, 797-98 (E.D. Pa. 2018). Regardless, though, these laws are now on the books and employers should be mindful of their requirements going forward. READ MORE

Race to the Finish: New York Legislature Passes Substantial Equal Pay Changes Just Before Close to 2019 Legislative Session

As part of a marathon finish to the 2019 legislative session, the New York State legislature recently passed two new equal pay bills that build on other state and local laws enacted within recent years. The first of the two bills, Senate Bill No. S5248A, broadens the scope of § 194 of the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”) to establish prohibitions on compensation discrimination between employees performing work that is “substantially similar,” and by prohibiting compensation discrimination on the basis of any protected status or classification under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”). The second bill, Senate Bill No. S6549, establishes a broad proscription on salary history inquiries during the recruitment and hiring process. Together, the bills cement New York’s pay equity regime as among the strongest in the country and introduce new compliance challenges and questions in analyzing employee compensation. READ MORE

Pick Your Procedure: EEOC Launches Parallel Gender Discrimination Pay Suits Under Different Statutes

The EEOC has been no stranger to headlines in recent months, particularly on the issue of equal pay. As we recently reported, the EEOC’s long-dormant pay data collection rule, revived by the D.C. District Court in March, has caused an uproar of speculation as employers race to comply with increased data reporting requirements for their annual EEO-1 forms by September 30, 2019. But the EEOC is also busy addressing pay issues in court.

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