Washington’s Legislature has joined many other states in passing a law expressly prohibiting employers from seeking prior salary history from applicants or employees, except in limited circumstances. Washington’s Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which became effective in June 2018, already prohibited employers from relying on salary history to establish pay to screen applicants or employees. This new law goes further in making it clear that employers should not request salary history or use it. The law allows employers to confirm an applicant’s compensation history under two circumstances: if the applicant voluntarily shares it, or after making an offer of employment with compensation.

Washington’s new law also imposes pay transparency requirements that go beyond most other pay equity laws. Employers with 15 or more employees must disclose pay information when applicants or employees request it. An applicant who is offered a position has the right to request the minimum wage or salary for the position. An employee who is offered an internal transfer to a new position or promotion also has the right to request the wage scale or salary range for the position. If a wage scale or salary range has not been established for a position, employers must provide the minimum wage or salary expectation set by the employer prior to posting the position or making the promotion or position transfer.

What Should Employers Do Now?

To ensure compliance with the new law and be prepared for greater employee scrutiny of their compensation, employers should:

  • Remove all questions regarding prior wage or salary history from applications, interview guides, and other recruiting materials.
  • Train managers on when they can and cannot ask about prior compensation. Consider implementing a policy that only Human Resources can inquire about prior compensation.
  • Establish wage scales or salary ranges for all positions, if they do not already exist.
  • Train managers and Human Resources representatives on how to respond to employee questions about pay and concerns of inequitable pay, including how to use the internal complaint process.
  • Consider conducting a pay equity audit to identify pay inequities and establish a plan to remedy them. Consider the benefits of retaining counsel to conduct such audits under attorney-client privilege.