RELEASE: Stronger Equal Pay Protections Enacted by Oregon Legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2017
Luann Algoso, luann@familyforward.org, 714-613-2647

Stronger Equal Pay Protections Enacted by Oregon Legislature
HB 2005 will promote pay equity by strengthening protections
for all workers and enhancing penalties for violations

SALEM— This morning, the House took final action on HB 2005, Fair Pay for All, and the bill now heads to Governor Brown for signature.  This legislation will help end persistent pay disparities faced by women, people of color, LBGTQ workers, workers with a disability and all other protected classes in Oregon.  Unfortunately, these workers still face pay inequity and consistently earn less than their counterparts.  Women still make 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, African American women are paid 63 cents and Latinas are paid just 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns. Workers with disabilities make $.64 cents for every dollar their colleagues without disabilities make.

HB 2005 revamps Oregon’s existing equal pay law to strengthen its protections in several important ways.  First, it adds all protected classes — including people of color, LBGTQ workers, and workers with a disability — to the groups of individuals who cannot be discriminated against in pay.  Current law only protects against pay disparities based on gender, even though pay discrimination is known to impact all protected classes and is compounded for individuals who are members of multiple protected classes.

The bill also prohibits employers from screening job applicants based on salary history or to base a salary decision on an applicant’s previous salary history.  This change will help break the cycle of pay disparity that can be perpetuated across employers and job changes and that can trap workers into lower wages throughout their working lives.

Another important provision is the codification of the federal Lili Ledbetter Act into state law to ensure that each discriminatory paycheck is a new violation of the law.  Often victims of pay discrimination are not aware of the disparity for many years and this change ensures that the statute of limitations for bringing a complaint is reset with each discriminatory paycheck rather than being tied to the worker’s initial discriminatory paycheck.  Since Oregon’s equal pay law is currently stronger than federal law in several other ways, including this change in state law is critical.

Last, the bill increases the penalties for violations, ensuring that the penalty for a violation is sufficient to change pay inequity practices.

In addition to these enhancements to existing equal pay law, HB 2005 creates a strong incentive for employers to conduct their own pay equity analyses and remedy the pay disparities they identify internally.  Employers who have conducted a pay equity analysis — and who have actually rectified pay disparities in their workforce prior to a complaint being filed — will be shielded from the increased penalty provisions of HB 2005.  However, in order to avoid these increased penalties, employers will have to demonstrate that they have actually eliminated the pay disparity.  In these instances, the employee would be entitled to receive two years of back pay, but would not be able to seek additional damages.

“I’m thrilled to see this important bill moving forward,” says Rep. Ann Lininger (D. Lake Oswego), one the bill’s chief sponsors. “Today’s vote is the result of collaboration between many people who are all committed to strengthening protections for workers.  I am proud of the work we did to keep these new protections strong and meaningful.”

“We are glad to see this kind of forward movement in Oregon,” says Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon. “In most families, all adults are in the workforce. This makes it more important than ever to ensure that everyone working in Oregon is being treated – and paid – equitably. When a woman, person of color, LGBTQ person, or person living with a disability is paid inequitably, their whole family suffers.”

The majority of the new protections in HB 2005 will take effect Jan.1, 2019.  One piece, which allows employees to pursue a private right of action if an employer violates the provision that prohibits seeking or considering an applicant’s salary history, will take effect Jan. 1, 2024, but the remainder of that requirement will be enforceable by BOLI beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

A broad coalition of supporters worked on HB 2005, including Family Forward Oregon, AAUW, Basic Rights Oregon, Disability Rights Oregon, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, SEIU, AFSCME, OTLA, APANO, Children First, and the AFL-CIO.

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