Pay equity, sexual harassment and other HR bills signed into law
In the legislative session that concluded earlier this month, the Legislature passed these measures that have since been signed into law by the Governor. Employers should take note of the following changes.
2SHB 1506 – The Equal-Pay Opportunity Act updates the state’s equal-pay law by prohibiting employers from imposing pay secrecy policies; banning employers from retaliating against employees who file complaints, discuss wages and seek advancement opportunities; and setting a “similarly employed” standard ensuring jobs that require similar skill and responsibility are performed under similar working conditions. The bill takes effect June 7, 2018.
Sexual Harassment/Nondisclosure Agreements
SB 5996 The bill prohibits the use of nondisclosure agreements in the case of sexual harassment claims. It prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault. It provides that any nondisclosure agreement that have the purpose or effect of preventing an employee from disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault are void and unenforceable. It makes it an unfair practice under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) for an employer to retaliate against an employee for disclosing or discussing sexual harassment or sexual assault. The bill takes effect June 7, 2018.
SSB 6313 – The bill says an employment agreement is void and unenforceable if it requires an employee to waive their right to file a complaint under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) or federal antidiscrimination law, or if it requires a claim of discrimination be resolved using a dispute resolution process that is confidential. The bill takes effect June 7, 2018.
SB 6471 - The bill says the Human Rights Commission (HRC) must convene a work group to develop model policies and best practices for employers and employees to keep workplaces safe from sexual harassment. The HRC must adopt model policies and best practices developed by the work group and post the model policies and best practices on its website by January 1, 2019. Within 30 days of the HRC adopting model policies and best practices, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) must post the policies and best practices on its website.
“Ban the Box”/Arrests
2SHB 1298 –This bill prohibits employers from asking about arrests and convictions before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a person. Establishes the Washington Fair-Chance Act. Prohibits an employer from including any question on an application for employment, from inquiring either orally or in writing, from receiving information through a criminal-history background check, or from otherwise obtaining information about an applicant's criminal record until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. The bill takes effect June 7, 2018.