The Equal Pay Opportunity Act, a long awaited update to the 1943 Equal Pay Act, goes into effect today. The Act encourages wage transparency by protecting workers who share wage information, creates a legal action for women unfairly passed over for promotions or guided into lower paying jobs, and creates new administrative forum for complaints of wage discrimination with the Department of Labor and Industries. The protections are aimed at the fact that many women are often unaware that they are paid differently from co-workers and more likely to be afraid to ask about wages or speak up when they discover a difference in pay.
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Despite the protections in the Act, there is still much to be done to facilitate actual pay equity between genders and race. According to a 2017 National Partnership for Women and Families study, Washington has the 12th worst wage gap in the country, with the average woman working full time making 76.5 cents to the dollar that her male counterpart earns, with women of color faring worse: African American, 61.1 cents; Native American, 59.8; and Latinas, 55. Representative Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, championed the new law which was sponsored by 31 other legislators.
Says Governor Inslee in a statement released today about the Act,
“There is still a lot of work remaining to achieve true pay and opportunity equity for women in the workforce. This bill tears away the ability of companies to shroud salary and promotion decisions in secrecy. This makes it possible for employees to discuss how those decisions are being made without fear of retaliation.”
Maggie Humphreys the Washington State Director of MomsRising a grassroots organization that advocated on behalf of Washington women to pass the updates and protections, added the following statement of praise for the law,
“The Equal Pay Opportunity Act is the result of years of work between legislators, women’s advocacy groups, labor advocates, and the business community. This bill brings Washington’s equal pay protections into the 21st century and ends paycheck secrecy in Washington. While no single law taken alone will close the wage gap, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act is a strong step forward for pay equity.”
This article was updated on June 11, 2018 to add the statement from MomsRising.