Maryland has amended its Equal Pay for Equal Work law giving more workers protection from wage discrimination. Under existing law, employers are prohibited from discriminating in the payment of wages between employees of the opposite sex who work in the “same establishment” and “perform work of comparable character or work in the same operation, in the same business, or of the same type.” The new law prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity. In addition to pay disparities, other work disadvantages that create inequalities are also prohibited under the new law. The law also has a more liberal interpretation of the term “same establishment” so that disparities are evaluated against a broader group of workers.
Under the new law, an employer is prohibited from:
- Paying employees of one sex or gender identity less than the rate paid to employees of another sex or gender identity, if both employees work in the same establishment and perform work of comparable character or work in the same operation, in the same business, or of the same type. Maryland employees who work for the same employer work in the “same establishment” if their workplaces are located in the same county.
- Providing less favorable employment opportunities, which include assigning an employee into a less favorable career track or position, failing to provide information about promotions or advancement, or limiting or depriving an employee of employment opportunities because of sex or gender identity.
- Prohibiting employees from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing their wages or the wages of other employees.
The new law takes effect October 1, 2016. The new law will require an update to the Equal Pay for Equal Work posting on Maryland All-On-One Posters. An update is expected later this year.
Under a related new law, Maryland will also be instituting an Equal Pay Commission. The Commission will:
- Evaluate wage disparities in the public and private sector;
- Establish a system to collect wage data from employers;
- Develop best practices regarding equal pay for equal work;
- Streamline administrative and legal processes and remedies with other anti-discrimination laws;
- Work with private sector entities to effectuate the Commission’s processes; and
- Share data to support enforcement actions.
Employers should be proactive with their pay policies. This may include conducting company-wide internal audits, evaluating hiring and advancement criteria, modifying policies and being prepared for a future data collection request from the Commission.