Washington State House Democrats


Equal Pay Opportunity Act Passes State House

OLYMPIA – Despite the state’s 1943 Equal Pay law, the gap between men and women’s pay remains. In fact, women in Washington state made just 79 cents to the man’s dollar in 2013.  That is 33rd in the nation in terms of the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings.

State Representative Tana Senn authored legislation, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, to lessen that gap by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for discussing compensation. Today, the Washington State House of Representatives passed HB 1646 with a vote of 55-43 and it will now go to the senate for its consideration.

“Now is the time for equal pay, once and for all,” said Rep. Senn. “As we encourage people to work hard to succeed—whether as a nurse, a software developer, a factory worker or an attorney—we must ensure their hard work is rewarded equally—regardless of gender.”

Senn cited recent studies which showed how the gender wage gap has persisted, particularly for minority women who earn 46 cents to a man’s dollar in Washington state. Left unchecked, this problem will persist well into 2058, when the wage gap between men and women is expected to correct itself.

“We have an opportunity to significantly impact families all across Washington by insisting women earn what they deserve,” said Rep. Senn. “Thousands of families will benefit from our actions today and all it takes is giving women the same opportunity as everyone else.”

Providing equal pay to all working women will cut their poverty rate in half. Women begin experiencing discrepancies in their pay compared to men right out of college and the disparity continues throughout their careers, negatively affecting our economy. In fact, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that U.S. GDP would grow by 3 percent if women were paid as much as men.

“Unfortunately the wage gap is pervasive, even within relatively progressive businesses in Washington state,” explained Keela Robinson, former CEO of UrbanSpoon. “Once a compensation gap is created for an employee, it often persists across roles and even companies.  The transparency that is proposed in the Equal Pay Opportunity Act will provide the necessary accountability for companies to address this form of discrimination.”

A common myth perpetuated by opposition to equal pay legislation is that women earn less due to choosing to leave the workforce to start families. Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard University, found that after controlling for age, race, hours and education women who are doctors and surgeons earn 71 percent of men’s wages. Female financial specialists earn 66 percent of men’s wages.

“Women account for nearly half of the paid work force but study after study shows that women aren’t making equal pay for equal work. This hurts our families and our economy.” said MomsRising Executive Director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “The Equal Pay Opportunity Act will boost our families and our economy by making it easier to root out and resolve ingrained unfair pay practices. We urge the State Senate to follow the House’s lead in updating our outdated public policies.”

“Let’s fulfill the promise of equality and opportunity for our daughters,” reaffirmed Senn.