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Oregon Senate passes Equal Pay Act of 2017; what it means for you

The Oregonian/OregonLive – By Anna Marum – May 18, 2017
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Photo: FILE- In this Nov. 18, 2014, file photo, Judy Unquera, a bartender at the Long Branch, pours a beer at the bar in Monroe. Oregon lawmakers just passed a bill that would encourage employers to pay their women workers more. (Bruce Ely /The Oregonian via AP, File).

In a vote lawmakers called historic, the Oregon Senate unanimously passed the Equal Pay Act of 2017 on Wednesday.

The bill aims to shrink the stubborn pay gaps between genders, races and those in other protected classes by expanding protections for people who are regularly discriminated against, and by encouraging companies to proactively examine their own pay practices before a lawsuit is filed.

Senators patted themselves on the back for their ability to reach a compromise that would help close gender-based or otherwise unfair wage gaps without punishing businesses. The collegial tone was a stark departure from the one in House, where Republicans and Democrats attacked each other in a heated floor debate over an earlier version of bill last month.

The Senate’s revised version of the bill now heads back to the House, which is expected to approve it and send it to the governor’s office. Bryan Hockaday, a spokesman for Gov. Kate Brown, said she will sign the bill.

equal-payjpg-cbe31a81eabcee75Photo: Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, on Wednesday, May 17, after the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 passes unanimously in the Senate. (Courtesy Senate Republicans).

The measure had bipartisan support, led by Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, and Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

“It’s currently illegal in Oregon and throughout the U.S. to pay someone differently for the same work based on their gender, race, religion, etcetera,” Taylor said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “However, our current legal system is not working, and we know far too many individuals are being paid less for doing the same work.”

The bulk of the bill’s provisions set to go into effect on or before Jan. 1, 2019 – giving employers time, Taylor said, for employers to identify and correct any pay disparities.

Knopp said he has never met an employer who has intentionally underpaid their female employees, but research shows it exists.

According to an ECONorthwest analysis of 2014 Census data, for every dollar that Oregonian men earned, Hispanic women in Oregon made just 53 cents, Native American women earned 69 cents, black women earned 77 cents, Asian women earned 79 cents and white women earned 83 cents.

“This bill is for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our granddaughters, our aunts, our nieces and our friends,” Knopp said. “I want to dedicate this bill to the next generation of women that will earn more for their entire working career because of our efforts here today.”

This is what the bill means for workers:

– Your employer can’t pay you less – this includes benefits– because of your gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability or age. This bill expands protections for certain classes and puts wage protections in one place.

– Your employer can’t pay your coworker more than you for the same job unless the pay gap is based on one or more of the following: merit, seniority, quantity or quality of production, education, training, experience, workplace locations and travel.

– A potential employer cannot ask an applicant how much they currently are paid.

– An employer can’t base a new hire’s pay on the person’s current or past compensation.

– Your employer can’t cut your pay to comply with this law.

– If your employer is violating any of the above rules, they owe you unpaid wages.

– If you are owed unpaid wages, you have two options: You can file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries or you can sue your employer.

– Even if you agreed to be paid less than a coworker doing the same job, your employer could still owe you unpaid wages.

– An employer can’t ask for the salary history of an applicant or employee from their current or former employer until they make a job offer.

Read entire article here

PS Love the part where Knopp said ‘He has never met an employer who has intentionally underpaid their female employees, but research shows it exists’. This is laughable as most employers will tell women that they would hire a male if they could afford it! It will be interesting to see just how this works with employers having gotten away with paying women so much less for all this time–hard to believe that things will change by 2019. I do agree that it must be a law to work at all and have faith that slowly as more women are in a hiring positions things will change.

Posted by Teri Perticone

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