Remembering Employee Rights as Hiring Heats Up

by Colleen Malmassari, SHRM-CP, PHR

September 7, 2021                                                                              

Due to technology advancements, evolving social demographics and ripples from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a noteworthy uptick in hiring across the nation coupled with a shortage of talent. Businesses in all industries are working hard to bring back their workforce and add manpower to their operations through significant hiring campaigns.

Whether you’re an employer who is bringing back furloughed employees or hiring new team members to accommodate growth, it’s important to remember everyone’s rights. Let’s revisit Washington State’s Equal Pay & Opportunities Act, which details employer, employee and job applicant rights.

The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that contribute to income disparities between genders. Both employees and applicants have rights under this law.

Employee Rights

  • Equal pay: The reason for a difference in pay between employees with similar jobs cannot be gender. To determine if employees have similar jobs, you must evaluate skill, effort and responsibility — not job titles. A difference in pay for similar jobs may be reasonable, but it is only acceptable in certain circumstances, including difference in education and training, seniority, work performance, quantity or quality of production, regional differences in compensation or differing minimum wages.
  • Equal career advancement opportunities:  Employers can’t limit or deprive an employee of career advancement opportunities based on gender. There are many acceptable reasons for difference in career advancement opportunities, including difference in education, training or experience, seniority, work performance or quality of production.
  • Open wage discussions: Employers can’t prohibit employees from disclosing, comparison or discussing their wages or the wages of other employees. Non-disclosure agreements regarding wages are prohibited. However, employers can require specific employees who have access to wage information as part of their job duties, to keep that information confidential.
  • Access to wage or salary information:  If an employee is offered an internal transfer or promotion, employers must provide them with the wage scale or salary range of their new position, upon request. If a wage scale or salary range does not exist, the employer must provide the minimum salary expectation set by the employer prior to posting the position, making a transfer or offering the promotion. If you are an employer with fewer than 15 employees, you do not have to meet this requirement.
  • Protection from discrimination, retaliation and firing:  Employers can’t take any adverse action against an employee for discussing wages, filing a complaint, testifying in a proceeding related to the law, or exercising other protected rights granted under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. Employers also can’t retaliate against employees who ask about their wages or lack of opportunity for advancement.

Job Applicant Rights

  • Wage and salary history privacy:  Employers can’t ask for the wage or salary history of a job applicant. After an employer makes an offer of employment including disclosing the offer’s pay, the employer can confirm the applicant’s salary. Applicants can voluntarily disclose their wage or salary history to prospective employers.
  • Access to minimum wage or salary information: Employers must provide an applicant who is offered a position with the minimum wage or salary of the position they are applying for, if requested by the applicant. If you’re an employer with less than 15 employees, you do not have to meet this requirement.

If you need assistance understanding your requirements as an employer or with recruiting and hiring new employees, our Outsourced Human Resources department can help. Give us a call today.


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