June is shaping up to be a record month for new laws in Washington state. Our state lawmakers have been busy the first four months of this year writing and passing new employment-related legislation that will impact all employers with business operations in the state of Washington come June.
Employers need to be aware of how these new laws, in place beginning June 7th, will affect their business and workplace. Here’s what you need to know to be compliant in the workplace:
Senate Bill 5996, Disclosure and Discussion of Sexual Harassment and Assault, relates to Non-disclosure agreements that prevent the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace.
Employees may no longer be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), waiver, or any other document as a condition of employment that blocks the employee from discussing sexual assault or sexual harassment occurring in the workplace including at work-related events. The law does not apply to HR and other supervisory personnel who are still required to maintain confidentiality as part of their role or as requested during ongoing investigations.
Settlement agreements may still contain confidentiality provisions.
If you do currently have signed NDAs with these types of provisions, you’re encouraged to seek legal counsel related to determine if the agreements are still enforceable.
Senate Bill 6313 : Immediate Prohibition on Confidential Arbitration Provisions in Employment Contracts
This law voids provisions of employment contracts that require employees to waive their right to publicly pursue discrimination complaints, or that require an employee to “resolve claims of discrimination in a dispute resolution process that is confidential.” Under the new law, employment agreements may not require confidential arbitration.
House Bill 1506: Gender Pay Equity Expansion
This new bill expands current Federal Equal Pay Act protections. The new law prohibits pay discrimination based on gender between similarly employed employees working for the same employer, limiting or depriving career advancement opportunities to an employee on the basis of gender, and prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign waivers disallowing wage discussions or retaliating against employees for discussing wages.
Employees are considered similarly employed if they work for the same employer, exert similar efforts, responsibility, skill, and with comparable working conditions.
If compensation differentials exist, employers must show they are based on bona fide job related factors that are in good faith and consistent with business necessity.
Suggested Actions to Comply with new laws:
Request HR assistance for the following:
- Create and establish Salary Pay Ranges for existing positions
- Create and/or review job descriptions to include education, work history and specific skills required
- Modify language in Employee Handbook and Policies where it relates to discussions around pay
House Bill 2661: Protecting survivors of Domestic Assault from Employment Discrimination
House Bill 2661 protects survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking from employment discrimination and now considers them members of a protected class. Employers may not discriminate against an applicant or employee because they are an actual or perceived victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Additionally, employers may not refuse to make reasonable safety accommodations requested by the individual unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
House Bill 1298: Ban the Box
House Bill 1298 prohibits employers from asking applicants about arrest or conviction records prior to determining if the individual is a qualified candidate. This includes asking about convictions on an Employment Application. Additionally, employers may not have a policy that automatically excludes those with a criminal record with the exception of positions with unsupervised access to children under the age of 18.
If your current applications need revisions, please contact an HR Consultant at JB Consulting Systems to assist.
Senate Bill 6313: Immediate Prohibition on Confidential Arbitration Provisions in Employment Contracts
Senate Bill 6313 voids provisions of employment contracts that require employees to waive their right to publicly pursue discrimination complaints, or that require an employee to “resolve claims of discrimination in a dispute resolution process that is confidential.” Under the new law, employment agreements may not require confidential arbitration.