Late last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2282 (“AB 2282”) into law. The Bill attempts to provide California employers with answers to questions that remained after Assembly Bill 168 (the “Salary History Ban” bill) became law.  As a reminder, AB 168 (1) prohibits California employers from asking job “applicants” for salary history information (and relying on this information), (2) requires employers to provide to applicants a “pay scale” upon “reasonable request”, and (3) prohibits employers from paying individuals of different sexes, races, or ethnicities different rates for competing substantially similar work, without having a justification for the pay disparity.

After AB 168’s passage last October, California employers were often left wondering:

  • What if a current employee asks for a new position—is that current employee an “applicant” and subject to the salary history ban law?
  • What is a “pay scale” and what constitutes a “reasonable request” for one?
  • What questions can I ask an applicant?
  • What factors can I rely on that would justify a wage differential between a male and a female worker?

In response, AB 2282 provides clarification in the following ways:

  • The term “applicant” only refers to external job-seekers seeking a new job with the company, and does not extend to current employees seeking a new position. Therefore the company may seek and rely upon salary information of its current employees when considering the employee for a new position.
  • The term “pay scale” means a salary or hourly wage range and a “reasonable request” is one that has taken place after an initial interview has taken place. Therefore, an employer is not required to provide a bonus or equity range, and must only provide the salary or hourly wage range to an applicant after an initial interview is completed.
  • While employers may not ask about salary information, an employer may ask about an applicant’s salary expectations. Additionally, if an applicant voluntarily discloses his or her salary information, the employer may rely on this information when considering an offer of employment. Therefore, there is still much information that can be deduced about an applicant’s salary expectations, though the employer must be careful not to ask questions that are prohibited by law.
  • Factors to be considered when justifying a wage disparity are: (a) a seniority system (b) a merit system (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or (d) a bona fide reason other than sex, race or ethnicity, such as education, training or experience—so long as this factor is not derived from a sex-based, race-based, or ethnicity-based differential in compensation, is job related, and is consistent with a business necessity. Therefore, wage disparities are not per se invalid; though if challenged, employers must be able to show one of the above factors exist.

Salary history bans continue to appear all across the country. Hogan Lovells’ employment team is especially apt to help employers navigate through these muddy waters as these laws often take time to become clearer through legislative and judicial processes.

Last week, both houses of the New Jersey Legislature passed a sweeping equal pay bill that Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign promptly. When passed into law, it will be one of the most strict equal pay statutes in the country.

The legislation—the “Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act”—would be effective July 1, 2018, and would prohibit employers from compensating any employee “who is a member of a protected class” at less than the rate paid to employees who are not members of the protected class “for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.”  The Act would allow employers to pay different rates of compensation only if the differential is made pursuant to a “seniority system” (which is not defined), a “merit system” (which also is not defined), or the employer makes a five-prong showing that includes:

  1. That the differential is based on non-protected factors, such as training, education or experience, or the quantity or quality of production;
  2. That such factors “do not perpetuate” compensation differentials based on protected characteristics;
  3. That each factor “is applied reasonably”;
  4. That such factors “account for the entire wage differential”; and
  5. “That the factors are job-related with respect to the position in question and based on a legitimate business necessity” and that “there are [no] alternative business practices that would serve the same business purpose without producing the wage differential.”

Compensation comparisons “shall be based on wage rates in all of an employer’s operations or facilities.” Further, employers would be prohibited from reducing the compensation of employees to comply with the Act.

The Act—broad, ambiguous and demanding—is virtually certain to increase equal pay litigation in New Jersey if and when it becomes law. With other states and localities likely to follow suit, employers should proactively evaluate their compensation structures to determine whether and why there are compensation differentials among similarly situated employees.

In advance of the July 1, 2018 implementation of extensive amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”), the Attorney General (“AG”) issued its Guidance on March 1, 2018. While the Guidance does not have regulatory effect, the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, has generally afforded substantial deference to such statutory interpretations by enforcing authorities. Massachusetts was the first state in the country to pass an equal pay law and the 2018 amendments make MEPA one of the strongest pay equity laws in the country, intended to close the 84.3.% pay gap for working women in Massachusetts.

MEPA OVERVIEW

MEPA prohibits employers from paying different wages to employees of different genders who perform comparable work, unless variations are based on one or more of six statutory factors. MEPA defines “comparable work” as work that requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions. An employer may not determine comparability based on job titles alone. Wages are defined as “all forms of remuneration for employment.”

MEPA also imposes three additional restrictions on employers. First, employers generally may not seek salary or wage history from prospective employees. Second, employers generally may not prohibit employees from discussing their pay or that of co-worker. Third, employers may not retaliate against any employee for an exercise of rights under MEPA. Further, salary history is not a defense to liability. Nor is intent to discriminate based on gender required to establish liability.

MEPA covers nearly all Massachusetts public and private employees and those with a primary place of work in the Commonwealth.

GUIDANCE HIGHLIGHTS

The Guidance sets forth and further defines the key terms for determining “comparable work” as follows:

  • “Skill” includes “such factors as experience, training, education, and ability required to perform the jobs.”
  • “Effort” is described as “the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform a job.”
  • “Responsibility” is explained as encompassing “the degree of discretion or accountability involved in performing the essential functions of a job, as well as the duties regularly required to be performed for the job.”
  • “Working conditions” mean “environmental and other similar circumstances customarily taken into account in setting salary or wages.” These can include physical surroundings and hazards. Working conditions may include the day or time of work, such as the types of scheduling differences that are taken into account in establishing shift differentials.

The Guidance defines that “substantially similar” means that skill, effort, and responsibility “are alike to a great or significant extent, but are not necessarily identical or alike in all respects.”

The Guidance sets forth and further explains the six statutory factors that employers may use to explain wage differentials between employees of different genders who perform comparable work:

  1. a seniority system;
  2. a merit system;
  3. a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue;
  4. the geographic location in which a job is performed;
  5. education, training or experience to the extent those factors are reasonably related to the job; or
  6. travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the job.

The Guidance explains MEPA’s statutory Affirmative Defense for “Good Faith” Self-Evaluation. A “complete defense” exists for employers have, within three years of a claim, conducted a legally sufficient self-audit of their pay practices, provided that the self-audit is reasonable in detail and scope, and the employer establishes that it has made reasonable progress towards eliminating any prescribed gender-based wage variations discovered in the audit. Even deficient self-audits done in good faith can prevent liability for double damages, but will not provide a complete defense to MEPA.

The Guidance explains that whether an evaluation is “reasonable in detail and scope” depends on the “size and complexity of an employer’s workforce,” in light of factors including “whether the evaluation includes a reasonable number of jobs and employees,” and is “reasonably sophisticated.” If disparities are not yet eliminated, the employer must show that they will be “in a reasonable amount of time.”

The Guidance includes resources for employers in appendices including 1) a guide for conducting self-evaluations, 2) a pay calculation tool, and 3) a checklist to consult when assessing whether existing policies and practices comply with MEPA. Employers should consult with counsel before conducting any self-evaluation which may be discoverable in litigation or in government investigations.

The Guidance can be found at:

https://www.mass.gov/files/…/03/…/AGO%20Equal%20Pay%20Act%20Guidance.pdf