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Pay Equity Matters: Mind the Gap

As we discussed recently, the November midterm elections have resulted in a divided Congress that is unable to pass significant employment legislation. This means we are likely to see the drive for legislative changes pursued primarily at the state or local level in 2019. And if the first few weeks of the new year are any indication, issues related to pay equity will continue to be a hot topic of discussion across the country.

More than seven years ago, female sales representatives who worked for Merck filed a class and collective action alleging discrimination in pay on the basis of their gender in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII. After years of litigation that resulted in a class and collective of 672 opt-in plaintiffs, the parties in Smith, et al. v. Merck & Co., Inc., recently reached a settlement of $6.2 million. We now wait to see if the court will approve the settlement. What do employers need to know about this proposed resolution?

Do a flutist and an oboist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) perform comparable work? What about an Executive Director in the Office of Language Learners and an Executive Director in the Office of Human Capital for the Boston public school system? These are the essential questions that courts in Massachusetts are currently grappling with under the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (MEPA), which requires businesses to pay men and women equally for “comparable work.”

The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate recently voted to override Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of proposed changes to the Illinois Equal Pay Act, meaning that employers will soon be required to comply with new set of pay equity obligations. The changes will now be part of state law effective January 1, 2019. What do employer need to know about these new requirements?

Tags: Illinois

Suffolk County joins New York City, Albany County, and Westchester County to become the latest jurisdiction in New York to ban employers from asking about a job applicant’s salary history. The Restrict Information Regarding Salary and Earnings (the “RISE” Act) was passed by the Suffolk County legislature on November 20 and signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on November 30. The effective date will be here before you know it; what do employers need to know about the new law?

U.K. companies were recently required to submit their first mandatory report providing statistics on their gender pay gap. We have now seen what the first round of reporting looks like and how employers have dealt with reports that indicate there is a gender pay gap problem. Without getting into a statistical analysis of the data, suffice it to say the statistics submitted so far by 10,503 companies confirm the gender pay gap is a real problem. Now that employers understand that there are inequalities in pay, it remains to be seen how these companies will implement measures to address the causes of these inequalities.

The salary history ban trend that has been sweeping the nation for past few years hit a speedbump a few weeks ago in Philadelphia. In January 2017, Philadelphia became the first city in the nation to adopt legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about the salary histories of applicants. However, the ordinance came under heavy fire by Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and some of the city’s large employers, which challenged the legality of the ordinance in a lawsuit. It was originally to take effect in May 2017 but the city agreed to delay implementation pending the outcome of the lawsuit. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy just signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which was recently passed by the state legislature. His signature today means New Jersey’s antidiscrimination law will soon be expanded to prohibit discrimination in pay on the basis of any of the protected categories recognized under state law.

On the heels of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for New York to take additional steps to close the gender wage gap, the New York State Assembly passed a suite of pay equity legislation that would impact both private and public employers if successfully enacted. 

On April 10, 2018, Equal Pay Day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled proposed legislation banning all employers in New York from asking job applicants about their salary history. The legislation is aimed at closing the gender wage gap in New York. 

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