Employers Can Now Get a Free L&I Consultation to Assess Their Equal Pay Compliance

L&I offers free customized consultations to help employers understand the impact the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act might have on their organization and employment practices, and provide a proactive evaluation of possible specific risks.

To request a consultation, complete this request form.

You can also call the Employment Standards Program at 360-902-6625.

Equal Pay and Opportunities Act prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that contribute to income disparities between genders. Both employees and applicants have rights under this law.

Employee Protections

It is unlawful to base an employee's pay or career advancement opportunities on their gender. Employees also have the protected right to discuss their wages and have the right to access certain wage and salary information.

Equal pay

Gender cannot be a reason for pay differences between employees with similar jobs. Determining if employees have similar jobs is based on skill, effort, and responsibility, not based on job titles. Differences in pay for similar jobs may be acceptable only in certain circumstances.

Acceptable reasons for a difference in pay

Unequal compensation among employees of different genders may be acceptable if the difference is based on justifiable factors, not related to gender. Acceptable factors for differences in pay may include:

  • Differences in education, training, or experience.
  • Seniority.
  • Merit/work performance.
  • Measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production.
  • Regional differences in compensation.
  • Differences in local minimum wages.
  • Job related factors consistent with business need.

Employers bear the burden of proof to justify why pay differences exist. An employee's previous wage or salary history cannot be used to justify gender pay differences.

Equal career advancement opportunities

Employers cannot limit or deprive an employee of career advancement opportunities on the basis of gender.

Acceptable reasons for differences in career advancement opportunities

Differences in career advancement opportunities among genders may be acceptable if the difference is based on:

  • Differences in education, training, or experience.
  • Seniority.
  • Merit/work performance.
  • Measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production.

Open wage discussions

Employers cannot prohibit employees from disclosing, comparing, or discussing their wages or the wages of other employees. Wage non-disclosure agreements for employees are prohibited.

Employers can require employees who have access to other employees' wage information as part of their job duties, to keep that information confidential.

Protection from discrimination, retaliation, and firing

Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for discussing wages, filing a complaint, testifying in a proceeding related to the law, or exercising other protected rights granted under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. Additionally, employers cannot retaliate against employees who ask about their wages or lack of opportunity for advancement.

Access to wage or salary information

Employers must provide an employee who is offered an internal transfer or promotion with the wage scale or salary range of their new position, upon request by the employee.

Employers with fewer than 15 employees do not have to meet this requirement.

Job Applicant Protections

Hiring practices such as asking an applicant for their salary history or requiring an applicant to provide a minimum previous salary can contribute to ongoing earning inequalities, and are prohibited by law.

The following protections apply to job applicants and employees seeking new positions.

Wage and salary history privacy

Employers cannot seek the wage or salary history of an applicant. An employer may confirm an applicant's salary after the employer negotiates and makes an offer of employment, including pay, and the offer is accepted by the applicant.

Applicants can voluntarily disclose their wage or salary history to prospective employers.

Protection from wage and salary history requirements for applicants

Employers cannot require that an applicant's prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria to be considered for the job.

Access to minimum wage or salary information for applicants

Employers must provide job applicants and employees with the wage and salary range, general description of benefits, and other compensation on a job posting.

This requirement only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Job Postings

As of Jan. 1, 2023, employers with 15 or more employees must include a wage scale or salary range, a general description of all benefits, and a general description of other compensation in job postings. The changes are part of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5761 that amends portions of the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act.

A “posting” is defined as any solicitation, including recruitment done directly by an employer or indirectly through a third party, intended to recruit job applicants that includes all of the following:

  • Electronic or printed hard copy.
  • Qualifications for desired applicants.
  • Specific available position.

L&I’s Employment Standards Program developed administrative policy ES.E.1 to help employers better understand the requirements.

A wage scale or salary range should provide applicants with the employer’s most reasonable and genuinely expected compensation range for the job. The range should extend from the lowest to the highest pay established by the employer prior to posting the job, such as $60,000-$80,000 per year.

The range should be clear without open-ended phrases such as “$60,000/per year and up” (with no top of the range), or “up to $29.00/hour” (with no bottom of the scale).
If the employer does not already have an existing wage scale or salary range for a position, a scale or range should be created prior to publishing the posting.

A “general description of all benefits” includes health care benefits, retirement benefits, any benefits permitting paid days off (including more generous paid sick leave accruals, parental leave, and paid time off or vacation benefits), and any other fringe benefits that must be reported for federal tax purposes.

“Other compensation” includes bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing, stock options, or other forms of compensation that would be offered to the hired applicant in addition to their established pay.

L&I has created a Job Posting Requirements factsheet (F700-225-000) to assist employers with understanding what constitutes a job posting, the information required on job postings, and to offer examples of job postings that would meet the requirements.

For questions about the job posting requirements, email our Equal Pay agents or call 360-902-6625.

Filing a complaint

To file a complaint against an employer (or former employer) for violating this law:

Department of Labor & Industries
Employment Standards
PO Box 44510
Olympia, WA 98504-4510

  • Bring the complaint form to your nearest L&I office


  • Submit the form to our secure file upload. You can also use this link to send us documents and all other supporting information along with the completed complaint form. Please make sure the information is as complete and accurate as possible. Save the complaint form and any additional supporting documents with your first and last name within file name once completed and before submitting the form.

To fill out this form using a smartphone or tablet, you may need the free Adobe Fill and Sign app available for Apple iOS and Android.

Note: The department will not investigate anonymous complaints.

To submit a tip for a non-compliant job posting, send an image or PDF of the job posting to: