Equal pay for equal work. Seems like an easy concept, right? But, as it turns out, correcting wage disparity is a work in progress. Oregon lawmakers passed revisions to the state’s Equal Pay Act in 2017 that have only taken full effect in the last few months.

As our state increases protections against wage discrimination, employees should know their rights under the new Pay Equity Law.

What revisions to the Equal Pay Act mean for you

Revisions to the Pay Equity Law, which took effect in January of this year, prohibit employers from discriminating against employees in a protected class by paying them less than others who are doing “work of comparable character.”

This includes paying someone less because of their:

· Sex

· Disability

· Sexual orientation

· Race

· Marital status

· Veteran status

· Religious beliefs

· Age

· National origin

The new Pay Equity Law provisions also prohibit employers from screening applicants based on how much they are currently paid or have been paid in the past.

What does “work of comparable character” mean?

The Pay Equity Law requires employers to use five criteria to compare one person’s job to another:

· Knowledge

· Skill

· Effort

· Responsibility

· Working conditions

If two employees are performing “substantially similar” work and there is no legal justification for a difference in pay, the lower wage must increase to the higher-paid employee’s level. The Pay Equity Act specifically prohibits lowering wages to correct a disparity.

Factors that can impact your pay

While these revisions aim to protect employees from wage discrimination, there are factors an employer can use to justify paying employees in the same position at different rates.

These factors include:

· Seniority

· Education

· Training

· Experience

· Productivity tracking systems

The effectiveness of these new provisions will likely be a continuing discussion as our state moves forward in the fight for wage equality. If you suspect you are experiencing wage discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries’ (BOLI) Civil Rights Division.