Washington State's Pay Transparency Law Takes Effect January 1, 2023
Effective January 1, 2023, Washington employers must comply with SB 5761, commonly known as Washington’s Pay Transparency Law, signed by Governor Jay Inslee on March 30, 2022. SB 5761 amends Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunity Act (RCW 49.58) to require employers with 15 or more employees to include in each job posting the wage scale or salary range of the job and a general description of all of the benefits offered and to identify other compensation offered. The law also requires employers to provide existing employees who are promoted or offered a new position with the wage scale or salary range of the new position.
Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunity Act currently only requires employers to provide applicants with the minimum wage or salary for the position they seek and only upon the applicant’s request after the employer makes the job offer.
WHAT IS THE PAY TRANSPARENCY LAW?
Effective January 1, 2023, employers must disclose in each posting for each job opening the wage scale or salary range and a general description of all benefits and other compensation to offered to the hired applicant.
Job postings mean “any solicitation included to recruit job applicants for a specific available position,” and electronic or hard-copy records that describe the desired qualifications, whether the employer solicits applicants directly or indirectly through a third party.
Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries (DLI) has published a draft administrative policy that provides employers with guidance on compliance.
WHICH EMPLOYERS ARE COVERED?
The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
DLI’s guidance clarifies that the law applies to all employers with 15 or more employees, engaging in any business, industry, profession or activity in Washington. The 15-employee threshold for covered employers “includes employers that do not have a physical presence in Washington, if the employer has one or more Washington-based employees.” This law applies to employers even if they do not have a physical presence in Washington but engage in business in Washington or recruit for jobs that could be filled by a Washington-based employee.
WHAT MUST EMPLOYERS INCLUDE IN THE POSTING?
Employers must disclose in each posting for each job opening:
The opening wage scale or salary range
A general description of all benefits and other compensation offered.
Per the DLI’s guidance, employers must make these disclosures in postings for remote work that could be performed by a Washington-based employee. Employers cannot avoid these disclosure requirements by stating in the posting that it will not accept Washington applicants.
Wage Scale or Salary Range
The DLI’s guidance identifies examples of information that should be included in a posting.
A wage scale or salary range should provide the applicant with the employer’s most reasonable and genuinely expected range of compensation for the job, extending from the lowest to the highest pay established by the employer prior to publishing the job posting. If the employer does not have an existing wage scale or salary range for a position, the scale or range should be created prior to publishing the job posting. For example, the scale or range’s minimum and maximum should be clear without open-ended phrases such as “$60,000/per year and up” (with no top of the range), or “up to $29.00/hour” (with no bottom of the scale).
Employers should update the posting to reflect any changes to the wage scale or salary range. If the employer offers a different position than what the applicant applied for, the employer may offer the applicant the wage scale or salary range specific to the position offered, rather than the position in the posting.
If an employer intends to implement a “starting range” or “starting rate” for an initial timeframe of employment or probationary period, the starting range or rate may be listed on the posting, but the entire scale or range must also be listed on the posting.
If an employer publishes a job posting for a job opening that can be filled with varying job titles, depending on experience, the employer should specify all potential wage scales or salary ranges that apply. The job posting should clearly define the lowest to highest pay established for each potential job position, as indicated in the example below:
Accounting Analyst 1: $27.00 – $29.00 per hour
Accounting Analyst 2: $65,000 – $75,000 per year
Accounting Analyst 3: $80,000 – $95,000 per year.
If an employer posts a job that is compensated by commission rates, the employer should include the rate or rate range (percentage or otherwise) that it would offer to the hired applicant, as indicated in the example below:
Commission-based salesperson: 5–8% of net sale price per unit.
General Description of All Benefits
A general description of all benefits includes, but is not limited to, healthcare benefits, retirement benefits, any benefits permitting paid days off (including more-generous paid sick leave accruals, parental leave, and paid time off or vacation benefits), and any other benefits that must be reported for federal tax purposes, such as fringe benefits.
If the general description of all benefits changes after an employer has published a posting and the posting remains published, the employer should update the posting.
If insurance or retirement plans are included as part of the position’s benefits package, employers should list the types of insurance and retirement plans in the job posting, such as medical insurance, vision insurance, 401k and employer-funded retirement plan. Similarly, if an employer offers paid vacation, paid holidays or paid sick leave benefits, employers should list in detail the amount of days or hours offered for each benefit.
The DLI’s example of a general description of all benefits is as follows:
“Employees (and their families) are covered by medical, dental, vision, and basic life insurance. Employees are able to enroll in our company’s 401k plan, as well as a deferred compensation plan. Employees will also receive eight hours of vacation leave every month, as well as eight hours of Washington paid sick leave every month. Employees will also enjoy twelve paid holidays throughout the calendar year. Two weeks of paid parental leave will also be available for use after successful completion of one year of employment.”
General Description of Other Compensation
Other compensation includes, but is not limited to, any discretionary bonuses, stock options or other forms of compensation that would be offered to the hired applicant in addition to their established salary range or wage scale. Some forms of other compensation can include, but are not limited to, commissions, bonuses, profit-sharing, merit pay, stock options, travel allowance, relocation assistance and housing allowance.
Employers need only describe the other compensation and need not include the total monetary value of the other compensation in a job posting. However, employers who choose to include the total monetary value of other compensation in a job posting must also include the required general description of benefits and other compensation in addition to the wage scale or salary range.
The DLI’s example of a general description of other compensation is as follows:
“Hired applicant will be able to purchase company stock, receive annual bonuses, and can participate in profit-sharing. Hired applicant will also receive an equity grant in the form of either a direct grant of stock that will be specified in the employment contract or an option to purchase stock in the future for a specified price.”
In electronic job postings, the posting must have the general description of the benefits and other compensation, but employers can use a link to provide a more detailed description of benefits and other compensation. However, “it is the employer’s responsibility to assure continuous compliance with functionality of links, up-to-date information, and information that applies to the specific job posting, regardless of any use of third-party administrators.”
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF NONCOMPLIANCE?
Where an employer is out of compliance with this law, applicants and employees will be able to file a complaint with the DLI or file a civil lawsuit against the employer in court.
If applicants or employees file a complaint with the DLI, the DLI may issue a citation and/or notice of assessment and order the employer to pay to the complainant actual damages, double statutory damages (or $5,000, whichever is greater), interest of 1% per month on compensation owed, payment to the department for the costs of investigation and enforcement, and other appropriate relief. The DLI may also order an employer to pay civil penalties in response to complaints, ranging from $500 for a first violation to $1,000 or 10% of damages (whichever is greater) for a repeat violation.
If applicants or employees file a civil lawsuit, remedies may include actual damages, double statutory damages (or $5,000, whichever is greater), interest of 1% per month on compensation owed, and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs. Recovery of wages and interest will be calculated back four years from the last violation.
Note: This alert was drafted based on Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industries’ Draft Administrative Policy, which may be superseded by a revised final version before January 1, 2023.