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January 1, 2019, a Big Day for Oregon’s Equal Pay Act

Key parts of the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 will become effective on January 1, 2019. Part of the law—limits on employers’ right to seek salary history information—took effect in October 2017, and another section—the part giving employees the right to sue under the law and seek enhanced remedies—won’t take effect until 2024, but most of the law takes effect with the coming of 2019. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries issued final rules implementing the Act on November 19, 2018.

Pay

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As of January 1, 2019, the law will prohibit discrimination in wages (including bonuses, fringe benefits, and equity-based compensation) based on all protected characteristics under Oregon law. Protected characteristics include race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability, and age.

The new law prohibits discrimination in wages based on compensation comparisons with “work of a comparable character.” That is potentially a much broader definition of “work” than simply the same job, a similar job, or the same work. “Work of comparable character” is work that requires “substantially similar knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.”

Employees who perform work of a comparable character may be paid at different compensation levels based on factors such as seniority and merit systems; quantity or quality of production; travel; workplace location; education, training, or experience (or any combination of those factors).

The law provides remedies, including back pay for periods of unlawful wage discrimination up to 2 years. It also provides for enforcement by or in court. Only after January 1, 2024, however, may employees file a court action.

For more information on Oregon’s Equal Pay Act, see the October 2017 issue of Oregon Employment Law Letter.

Calvin L. Keith is an attorney with Perkins Coie LLP in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at ckeith@perkinscoie.com.