Jared Polis was elected Governor of Colorado in November of 2018. He is the first openly gay man to serve as Governor, and that is not the only contribution he is making to history. Polis has been able to sign the country’s first equal pay for equal work law. The wage gap has been a front-page issue for decades, but no one has been able to pass a law to address it – until now.
Salary has always been an uncomfortable topic of discussion. How much you are paid was never seen as a polite question to ask at the water cooler. These days, however, it is becoming more and more common to discuss salaries. Studies have shown that, on average, women are paid roughly 80% of what men are paid for the same job and the same work, and women have really started voicing their disgust with that inequity.
Colorado’s new law – Senate Bill 85 – will support salary discussions by making it illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for discussing your salary with your coworkers. Employers, however, are forbidden to ask you for your previous salary in job interviews. The thought behind that requirement is that if your previous salary was lower than what the employer was planning to pay for the position, you’d be offered less money. While these provisions were passed as part of the law to address the gender pay gap, they are likely to benefit both male and female employees.
If you are a female employee who finds out after having that not-so-uncomfortable-anymore conversation about salary with your coworker that you are being underpaid for the same work, you have two years to sue your employer for back pay. That’s right, you can take your employer directly to court to hold them accountable for the pay disparity, which is another historic aspect of this law.
Every Person With the Same Job Gets the Same Money?
It’s important to understand that just because you share a title with “Joe Smith” that does not automatically mean you will be making the same salary. Salary disparities are permitted when the employer can prove they are based on merit, seniority, or location.
The new law also requires the employer to announce any promotions that become available to all employees and include the salary range for that position. Even though an assistant in a company’s Ouray, Colorado, office will likely not be qualified for the General Counsel position that’s opened up in Denver, this part of the law will result in company-wide salary transparency.
The new law is set to take effect in January of 2021. The reason behind the delay is to give businesses a chance to adjust and prepare for the new requirements. This is not the only historic law that Colorado’s new Governor Polis has passed in his short tenure, however. Colorado also recently became the first state in the country to cap the cost of insulin at $100 per month.