Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee has signed into law new protections against pay discrimination. The new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2023, makes it unlawful to pay any employee less than the employees of another race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin for comparable work.

Salary History Ban and Pay Transparency

Consistent with other state equal pay law trends, the Rhode Island law also contains a “ban” on employer inquiries about or reliance on salary history, as well as pay transparency protections. Employers may not require a candidate to disclose salary history or rely on a candidate’s wage history to justify lower pay.

Employers also may not prevent employees from discussing pay.

“Safe Harbor” for Self-Evaluation

The new law also provides a “safe harbor” if an employer has analyzed pay and rectified any identified problems. An employer would have an affirmative defense to all liability if it evaluated its pay practices within the two years prior to commencement of an action and can show that any unlawful pay differences identified by the analysis have been eliminated.

A permissible self-evaluation may be “of the employer’s own design” or on a “standard template or form” to be issued by the Department of Labor and Training.