WA –Employment Law Legislative Updates

Three legislative updates related to pay equality, sexual harassment, and the ability to ask about job applicants’ criminal background history. Each law takes effect June 7, 2018.

 ·       Equal Pay Act Update, HB 1506 – Addressing workplace practices to achieve gender pay equity.

This legislation allows employees to talk about their earnings with co-workers and ask for equal pay, without fear of backlash or retaliation. The measure offers remedies for employees who are paid less for similar work on the basis of gender. The updated legislation also ensures employees receive access to equivalent career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender.

 The Equal Pay Opportunity Act updates the state’s equal pay law for the first time since its inception by, among other things:

·       Setting the standard of “similarly employed” as jobs that require similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions.

·       Prohibiting employers from relying on an employee’s previous wage or salary to justify a pay discrepancy between genders.

·       Prohibiting employers from imposing pay secrecy policies.

·       Preventing discrimination by gender in providing career advancement opportunities.

·       Banning employers from retaliating against employees who file complaints, discuss wages or seek advancement opportunities.

·       Ensuring employees are entitled to administrative and civil remedies in the event of violations.

·       SB 5996 – Encouraging the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.

 An employer may not require an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement, waiver, or other document that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events coordinated by or through the employer, or between employees, or between an employer and an employee, off the employment premises.

 Except for settlement agreements under subsection (4) of the15th section of the document, any nondisclosure agreement, waiver, or other document signed by an employee as a condition of employment that has the purpose or effect of preventing the employee from disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events coordinated by or through the employer, or between employees, or between an employer and an employee, off the employment premises is against public policy and is void and unenforceable.

 It is an unfair practice for an employer to discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee for disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events coordinated by or through the employer, or between employees, or between an employer and an employee, off the employment premises.

 ·       HB 1298 – Prohibiting employers from asking about arrests or convictions before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position.

 This law prohibits employers from asking about or obtaining information about an applicant’s arrest or conviction history until after it is determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Upon selecting an applicant to move forward with the contingent hiring process, it may obtain that information.

 The law also prohibits employers from advertising employment openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying.