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 Correspondingly, the more onerous definition of “system” that had appeared in OAR 839-008-0015 was repealed.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.
The Second Circuit ruled this month in Lenzi v. Systemax, Inc. that “Title VII does not require a showing of unequal pay for equal work.” Drawing a line between the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) and Title VII, the court held that “all Title VII requires a plaintiff to prove is that her employer ‘discriminate[d] against [her] with respect to [her] compensation . . . because of [her] . . . sex.’”
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
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
In recent weeks, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) has entered into four major settlements that are notable both for their size, and for highlighting current trends. Each case involved allegations of race and gender-based compensation discrimination, with settlements in the millions: Dell settled for $7 million to resolve the allegations, Goldman Sachs settled for just shy of $10 million, Intel Corporation settled for $5 million, and Bank of America settled for $4.2 million. These amounts represent some of the largest settlements ever reached by OFCCP. READ MORE
Yesterday, the EEOC announced that it does not intend to renew its request for authorization to collect employers’ pay data on the EEO-1 form in future years. The announcement comes less than three weeks before the September 30th deadline for employers nationwide to submit massive amounts of pay data for 2017 and 2018 (a deadline that is not impacted by the EEOC’s announcement).
The rollercoaster saga of the EEOC’s pay data collection (which we previously reported on including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) began over three-and-a-half years ago when the EEOC announced in January 2016 its plan to revise the EEO-1 form to collect pay data (Component 2 data). The revised EEO-1 form requires employers to submit data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, and broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex. While the EEOC contends that the revised EEO-1 form will allow it to better assess pay discrimination, employers have expressed numerous concerns, including that the form may indicate “false positives,” as the broad EEO-1 job categories are not designed to group employees who perform similar work (as defined by federal and state equal pay and anti-discrimination statutes). READ MORE
The EEOC’s revised pay-data collection rule is back in force and the September 30, 2019 deadline is at our doorstep. Here is a quick overview of what employers should know and links to available resources. 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
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
For nearly five years, major U.S. corporations have been subject to intense scrutiny over their decisions on whether to release internal pay gap percentages in response to shareholder proposals by Arjuna Capital, LLC and other activist shareholder groups. As these activist groups maintain a keen interest in seeking compensation-related disclosures from industry giants, employers should be mindful of certain issues in considering their response. READ MORE