The Washington State Legislature took a large step toward addressing the wage gap by passing the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island).
The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan votes of 70-28 and 36-12, respectively.
MomsRising.org, a national online and on-the-ground organization of more than 40,000 members in Washington state and more than 1 million members across the country, praised the legislation in a March 7 press release.
“Women and moms are celebrating that the Equal Pay Opportunity Act passed the Washington Legislature today, continuing our state’s march toward fair pay and equality for women in the workplace,” stated MomsRising.org CEO and Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “With this action, Washington legislators have shown once again that they are committed to being true champions of women and families. Our state’s workers, businesses and economy will be stronger because of this bill.”
The Equal Pay Opportunity Act (EHB 1506) will ensure that employees can share wage or salary information with coworkers without fear of retaliation. It will also create a new administrative remedy for employees experiencing wage discrimination as well as protections for women who are tracked into lower paying jobs or unfairly passed over for promotions.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign it into law later this week, and the bill will take effect 90 days later. This is the first update to Washington’s equal pay laws in more than 70 years.
“Washington’s wage gap costs our state $18 billion each year,” stated Maggie Humphreys, Washington MomsForce director for MomsRising.org. “Women of color experience the highest levels of pay discrimination – Latinas working full-time are paid 46 cents, black women are paid 61 cents, and AAPI women are paid 74 cents for every dollar paid to white men. On top of that, moms take even bigger wage hits. These lost wages mean women and their families have less money to support themselves, save and invest for the future, and spend on goods and services.
“By passing the EPOA, Washington has taken an important step forward in addressing the wage gap,” Humphreys continued. “This legislation will deter wage discrimination and improve opportunities for women in the workplace while boosting our businesses and our economy.”
MomsRising members in Washington were critical to passing this legislation, according to the press release. Moms, dads and families from across Washington sent over 1,750 emails to their lawmakers in support of the bill, members made over 180 calls to their state senators to urge final passage, MomsRising staff testified before the State House and Senate in support of the bill, and members rallied at the Capitol in February for a press conference with Gov. Inslee and to hand-deliver stories and petition signatures to key legislators.
“This is another momentous victory for Washington families, following the groundbreaking paid family and medical leave law that passed last year,” Rowe-Finkbeiner said. “Studies have shown that these types of family-friendly policies – including paid leave, affordable child care and a living wage – all help to decrease the wage gap. We’re proud to see Washington take the lead on championing women and families, and hope that other states will follow its example.”