OLYMPIA – Washington State took a major step toward pay equity today with the passage of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act.
HB 1646, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), would ban employers from retaliating against employees for discussing wages and salaries and prevent the use of pay secrecy policies. The measure passed the House today on a 56-41 vote.
“America is a nation founded on the ideal that all of us are created equal,” Senn said. “That should hold true at the ballot box, in the court room—and at work.”
On average, a working woman in Washington earns just 77% of her male counterpart, even when their seniority, experience and education are comparable.
More than 20 states already have laws preventing pay secrecy policies. Our neighbor states, California and Oregon, passed similar laws in 2015, allowing open discussion and inquiry by employees regarding their own pay—as well as the pay of their co-workers—without retaliation.
“Information is power,” said Senn. “As long as women employees are kept ignorant of salary differences, the discrimination can persist. That has to change.”
HB 1646 was approved by the State House of Representatives in 2015 but did not reach the floor of the state Senate for a vote. The bill again goes to the Senate for further action.