Washington Passed An Equal Pay Act​

June 18, 2019
State lawmakers created a bill to help prevent wage discrimination. It prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history.
Backgrounds Online | June 18, 2019


State lawmakers created a bill to help prevent wage discrimination. It prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history.

About The Act

House Bill 1696 (HB1696), known as An Act Relating To Wage And Salary Information, was passed on April 25, 2019. It bans employers from asking job seekers to provide their salary history. It also prohibits employers from contacting an applicant’s former place of employment to ask what the person earned there.

If a candidate voluntarily discloses their current salary, a WA employer may confirm the information. However, this can only occur after the employer extends an offer that includes the proposed level of compensation. Job seekers who can show that an employer violated this law may be entitled to remedies including recovery of wages and interest.

Read the bill.

The Reason For This Bill

State legislators noted Washington already had laws in place to prevent wage gaps based on gender or other protected factors. Despite this, the state recognizes that disparities continue to exist. An Act Relating To Wage And Salary Information addresses this problem and specifies that wage discrimination leads to increased rates of poverty for women and children.

The text of the bill notes that when employers inquire about an applicant’s salary history, this type of discrimination is allowed to continue. It further noted that women have historically been offered lower levels of compensation for comparable positions even when they have comparable education and work history.

New Pay Scale Laws

HB1696 includes a section that covers requests for pay scale information. When asked, employers must inform candidates about the minimum salary for the position to which they are applying. Such a request can be made after an initial offer has been extended.

For some positions, a salary range may not exist. In these cases, the employer must determine a minimum salary prior to listing the availability of that position. This also applies to position transfers and promotions.

What Employers Should Know

Employers in Washington should be aware that this bill goes into effect in July, 2019.

Every employer should be aware that laws prohibiting questions about salary history are becoming more common. Washington is the 9th state to implement such a bill and more are likely to follow. Even if the area where you operate does not have a pay equity law in place, best practice is to not ask applicants about salary history and to provide comparable wages for comparable work. Exceptions typically exist for seniority, to accommodate the cost of living and other factors.

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