Since 2015, pay gap disclosure has been front and center on the activist shareholder proposal landscape from an employment and workforce perspective. Following closely on the heels of tragic events of last summer and the significant advancement of the Black Lives Matter movement, activist shareholder groups have pivoted away from proposals requiring disclosures of pay gap statistics and are instead focused on other dimensions of internal diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”). These initiatives seek more broad-based disclosure of whether and how companies are managing gender and racial disparities in representation – including, for example, in the boardroom and at senior management levels within an organization. Combined with recent rule changes at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with respect to required Human Capital Management disclosures, public companies should prepare for how they will respond to proposals seeking different and new disclosures regarding steps they are taking to expand and maintain diversity within their workforces.
On September 23, 2020 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted amendments to 17 C.F.R. § 240.14a-8 (“Rule 14a-8”), raising the bar for shareholders seeking to force votes on proposals. The rule comes on the heels of persistent and repeat shareholder proposals in various areas including, notably, pay gap data reporting.
1. Mandatory reporting under the methodology required by the government indicates some large pay gaps. What does that mean?
As of 17 April 2018, 10,364 employers had published their gender pay gap figures. What have we learnt? That almost eight out of ten employers are paying men, on average, more than women?
Well … yes – sort of, but that’s not the full picture. Remember, gender pay reporting is an entirely different calculation to that of equal pay (and pay equity in the U.S.) – you cannot conclude that an average gender pay gap of 59 percent means that a female employee earns 41p for every £1 her male colleague earns. A more accurate, but admittedly less provocative, title for reporting would be the ‘gender opportunity gap’ or, as energy company Shell coins it, the ‘talent gap’. READ MORE
Last year, we covered a Ninth Circuit panel decision which concluded that an employer may rely on prior salary information as an affirmative defense to claims under the federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) if “it show[s] that the factor ‘effectuate[s] some business policy’ and that the employer ‘use[s] the factor reasonably in light of the employer’s stated purpose as well as other practices.’” An en banc Ninth Circuit has now reversed the panel’s prior opinion. READ MORE
Since January 6, 2018, employees in Germany may bring a claim to information on their peers’ salary under the Pay Transparency Act (Entgelttransparenzgesetz – EntgTranspG). Learn how to react when you receive the first information claim. READ MORE
On January 1, 2018, Iceland’s amended Equal Pay Standard took effect, the latest in a serious of measures seeking to address the persistence of national gender wage gaps. The law requires employers with 25 or more employees to obtain a government certification every three years verifying a company’s compliance with equal pay requirements. Failure to attain certification exposes employers to liability of up to nearly $500 in penalties per day. Employers with an observed pay differential can comply by raising the salaries of employees to eliminate the differential. READ MORE
The California legislature is poised to continue its trailblazing streak of equal pay legislation with a new pay gap reporting bill. If approved and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, AB 1209 would add Section 2810.7 to the California Labor Code and require certain large employers to report pay gap statistics on an annual basis beginning in 2019. READ MORE
On April 5, 2017, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law prohibiting employers or their agents from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. The law also restricts an employer’s ability to rely upon that salary history in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process “including the negotiation of a contract.” The term “salary history” is defined to include current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation, but does not include “objective measures of the applicant’s productivity such as revenue, sales or other production reports.”
There are several notable exceptions to the law. READ MORE
Just less than a year ago, California adopted the Fair Pay Act (“FPA”), which took effect on January 1, 2016 and created some of the strongest equal pay protections in the nation. On September 30, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that expand the law even further.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has introduced before the New York City Council an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, if enacted, would prohibit employers from requesting or relying upon the salary history of an prospective employee in making starting salary and other pay decisions. In the bill summary, Public Advocate James and her co-sponsors conclude that when employers rely upon historical salary information, “they perpetuate the gender wage gap” and suggest that this legislation would “help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.” New York City’s proposed legislation follows closely on the heels of a wide-reaching pay equity statute recently enacted in Massachusetts that includes a prohibition on employers requesting or requiring applicants to provide their salary history.