Oregon's pay equity bill, HB 2005, took a major step forward Wednesday as the Senate Workforce Committee approved amendments that address some of businesses' biggest concerns and sent the amended bill to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation.
With the new amendments, Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) and the Oregon Business Association (OBA) now support HB 2005. Since the bill was first introduced in the House Committee on Business and Labor, AOI and OBA have supported the concept of equal pay for equal work and existing pay equity laws. The key to the additional protections sought by proponents of HB 2005 would be in the details, AOI Vice President and Counsel Betsy Earls said in that first hearing.
The core of the bill remains the same: Employers cannot pay employees less based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability or age. The bill also prohibits employers from requiring job applicants to provide their salary history, though they can ask applicants what their pay requirements would be to accept the job.
Important details that were addressed in the amendments include:
Clarification of justifiable reasons for pay differentials: These include a seniority system; a merit system; piece-rate work or other systems that measure quality or quantity of work, differences in workplace locations; regular travel, education, training, experience or any combination of those factors.
Delayed implementation: Most aspects of the law will not go into effect until January 1, 2019, giving employers time to implement or adjust pay programs.
Defense against compensatory and punitive damages: An important amendment gives employers a route to block compensatory and punitive damages. An employer can file a pretrial motion to disallow such damages if it can show that it completed an analysis of its pay equity practices within three years before the employee filed the action, eliminated the pay differential for the plaintiff and made reasonable and substantial progress toward eliminating differentials for the plaintiff's class.
Other limits on damages: The amended bill includes limits on the period of time for which employers are liable for back pay.
Protection for veterans: An amendment adds veterans to the protected classes.
AOI and OBA are among more than a half-dozen business associations that supported the amended version of the bill that was sent to the Senate floor on a bipartisan 4-0 vote.