Equal Pay Law Hits Washington Employers in June!


Employers in the Evergreen State are now required to comply with new equal pay rules beginning June 7, 2018.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act (EPOA) was signed into law in March. Its purpose is to eliminate the pay gap between genders for employees in the state of Washington.

The new law prohibits discrimination in compensation on the basis of gender. The word “gender” replaces “sex” and applies to all genders, including people identifying themselves as gender neutral or transgender.

Seven Points to Sum It Up…

  1. Similarly employed individuals cannot be discriminated against in their compensation. To be considered “similarly employed” the employees being compared must:
  • Work for the same employer;
  • Perform jobs requiring similar skills, effort, and responsibility;
  • Perform jobs under similar working conditions.
  1. Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaints of unequal pay or other protected conduct;
  2. Mandates employers cannot forbid employees from disclosing their wages and cannot have “wage secrecy” policies;
  3. Companies cannot limit career development or advancement opportunities that are based on gender. Employers should:
  • Announce or provide access to opportunities without regard to gender, and
  • Provide training without regard to gender, and
  • Not “limit or deprive an employee of career advancement opportunities” based on gender.
  1. Job titles alone should not be used as the basis for determining or justifying differences in pay.
  2. The rules apply to all forms of compensation, including but not limited to benefits, discretionary pay, bonuses, profit-sharing, and retirement plan contributions.
  3. Differences in compensation are not discriminatory if they are based in good faith on a “bona fide job-related factor or factors,” as long as they are:
  • Consistent with business necessity; and
  • Not based on or derived from a gender-based differential; and
  • Account for the entire differential.

Acceptable factors may include education, training, experience, a seniority system, a merit system, a production-based earnings system, regional differences in compensation levels, and differences in local minimum wage ordinances.

  • An individual’s previous wage history is not a defense. (Employers should discontinue practices that request an applicant’s salary history or prohibit employees from disclosing wages in violation of the EPOA.)
The rules are enforced by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, and has the authority to issue citations and order an employer to pay actual damages, interest, costs of investigation and enforcement, and wages and interest. Such penalties can go back as far as four years from the last violation, and even greater civil penalties can be assessed for repeat violations. Employees may also file civil lawsuits.


  1. Carefully review your compensation systems and practices for compliance with the new rules.
  2. Review the compensation of similarly employed workers and ensure documentation exists that explains the reasons for any differences.
  3. Review or revise your policies for setting the compensation of newly hired and promoted employees.
  4. Consider implementing formal pay ranges for all positions.


Got questions? Want more information? Give the Employee Benefits Advisors at EHL Insurance a call at (360) 779-4448.

I’m full of opinions but I never know which ones are good. And I’m not an employment attorney, so I had to include my disclaimer below:

DISCLAIMER: The comments and materials contained herein are intended to be for informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and is not intended to create or constitute a lawyer-client relationship. Before acting on the basis of any of this information or material, you are advised to consult your employment attorney for legal advice. Any views or opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company or agency. Neither Brown & Brown Insurance nor EHL Insurance accepts any liability for any damages or other liability arising out of this communication or the reliance upon any of the information provided within.

AUTHOR:  John Bower
Employee Benefits Advisor

(360) 779-4448 ext. 8177

John is an Employee Benefits Advisor, a seasoned Human Resources practitioner, and is curious about enough things to be a little bit dangerous! He’s full of opinions, which are a lot like odors, sometimes their good but other times they stink. John has two teenage boys and a sports fanatical family. GO HAWKS!

linked in iconenvelope icon