OLYMPIA—After active negotiations between the business and labor communities, the Washington House of Representatives passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act this morning on a 69-28 vote. This is the fourth year in a row that the House sends a version of this bill to the Senate.
“At a juncture in time, when we have removed the shroud of silence on sexual harassment, so must we eliminate the secrecy around wages,” said Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, the bill’s prime sponsor, during the floor debate.
Her legislation updates, for the first time since its passage in 1943, the Washington State Equal Pay Act. House Bill 1506 bans pay secrecy policies, allows discussion of wages between employees, and bans retaliation against workers who discuss their pay or ask for equal pay.
In her testimony before the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee on the first day of session, Rep. Senn said that her bill would help reduce poverty by strengthening the economy and Washington families at all ages, from right after college all the way through retirement.
“This legislation takes that next step on equal pay, which is to reduce pay secrecy and ensure employees are able to talk about their wages without fear of retaliation. We also want to make sure women advance in their careers by preventing discrimination based on gender,” Senn added.
Details of the legislation include:
- Prohibiting employers from imposing pay secrecy policies;
- Ensuring accessibility for low- and high-income employees, and small and large businesses, to remedies through administrative and civil pathways; and
- Preventing discrimination by gender in providing career advancements opportunities.
Rep. Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, a member of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee, said that 35 years ago women were earning 69 cents to a man’s dollar and that now it’s 79.
“Ten cents took more than three decades. This bill is a step that helps us move in the right direction toward getting to that one dollar equity faster than over the last 35 years,” Doglio said.
According to the American Association of University Women’s Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap Report, updated in the fall of 2017, at the rate of change between 1960 and 2016 women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2119.
“Anything we can do to make our state more attractive, especially to women in tech, is imperative for our state economy to continue growing,” said Michael Schutzler, Executive Director of Washington Technology Industry Association. “This legislation codifies a reasonable standard for society. It also sends a signal to the world that Washington is the place to work in tech.”
HB 1506 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.