Senate Passes Ban on Employers Asking About Wage History

Washington is poised to be the second state to ensure pay-scale transparency

Washington’s State Senate today took another step forward for gender pay equity, passing HB 1696, which prohibits employers from asking applicants about their wage history. The vote was strongly bipartisan, with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans supporting the bill.

The Senate reached that bipartisan consensus by amending provisions about pay scale transparency that were included in the version that passed the House in March. Rather than requiring all employers to provide the position’s pay range to an applicant who requests it, the bill now requires only employers with fifteen or more employees to disclose the job’s minimum pay when a job offer has been made. Employees who transfer or are promoted to a new position are still entitled to learn the pay range from their employer.

While a number of states prohibit employers from asking salary history, Washington is poised to become the second state after California to also ensure some element of pay-scale transparency.

The bill now will return to the House, which can either concur with the Senate’s amendments and send the bill to the Governor’s desk, or continue conversations on bill language.

Last year, Washington’s legislature updated the state’s equal pay law for the first time since World War II. That update challenges pay discrimination by assuring employees the right to discuss wages, providing for equal access to job opportunities, and strengthening enforcement of equal pay laws.

The Washington Work and Family Coalition supported passage of the salary history bill, with Legal Voice, MomsRising, and the Economic Opportunity Institute leading advocacy efforts. The newly formed Washington Women’s Commission also endorsed the bill.

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