Rhode Island Passed An Equal Pay Law​

August 27, 2019
RI state legislators approved a bill that enhances existing “Fair Pay” laws by prohibiting employers from asking applicants about their salary history.
Backgrounds Online | August 27, 2019


RI state legislators approved a bill that enhances existing “Fair Pay” laws by prohibiting employers from asking applicants about their salary history.

About The Bill

The bill states that RI employers may not “pay any of its employees at a wage rate less than the rate paid to employees of another race, color, or gender for equal work.” It specifies that employers cannot rely on an applicant’s wage history or require a job seeker to divulge compensation information. If an applicant volunteers their current salary, the employer may use that information if they wish to increase the level of compensation they previously offered.

There are exceptions to this law. Employers may adjust wages based on:
· A seniority system.
· A merit system.
· A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
· An individual’s level of experience, education or training.
· Geographical location (to adjust for the cost of living).
· Other business-related factors.

Support For The Bill

Senator Gayle Goldin sponsored the bill and believes it will strengthen existing laws that intend to eliminate wage discrimination in Rhode Island. Goldin said: “Passing this bill is not going to resolve the wage gap on its own, rather, this bill in combination with so many things we have worked on... is the way we will address the gender wage gap.”

A vote occurred at the Senate and the bill passed with 32 in favor and 4 against. It goes into effect on July 1, 2020. Read the full text.

Penalties For Violations

The bill establishes civil penalties for violations. Employers may be liable to pay up to $100 per violation to an aggrieved party.

When investigating a complaint, the director of the court will: “consider the size of the employer's business, the good faith of the employer, the gravity of the violation, the history of previous violations, and whether or not the violation was an innocent mistake or willful.”

Fighting Wage Discrimination

Numerous states have passed laws to help eliminate wage gaps based on gender and other protected factors. A big part of this typically involves prohibiting employers from asking applicants about their previous salary. Millions of Americans currently earn less than others who do comparable work under comparable circumstances. When employers rely on salary history to determine what compensation to offer, this issue continues to persist.

Best practice is to offer equal pay to employees who do equal work (with some exceptions as mentioned above). Employers should also be aware of any specific wage-related laws where they operate. Contact legal counsel to help ensure your practices are fair and in accordance with relevant laws.

Stay Compliant During Your Hiring Process

The team at Backgrounds Online makes efforts to keep up with new and upcoming laws. We publish blog entries, write Newsletters and provide other educational resources to help your compliance efforts. Please note that we do not and cannot provide legal counsel or advice.

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