Washington legislature to address the gender pay gap

SPOKANE, Wash. — Since 2004, the gender wage gap has only closed by 2 percent.

In Washington, a man earns a little over $65,000 annually, while a woman only earns around $51,000. In Idaho, a man earns about $49,000 annually, while a woman earns almost $37,000.

Hannah Theisen experiences it firsthand.

“So, I’ve asked a couple of my employees at my job, ‘oh how much do you make?’ ‘Oh I make like 50 cents to a dollar more than what I make,'” she said. “It’s just like, how is that even fair kind of thing.”

Labor and employment attorney Ron Van Wert says it’s a continuing issue.

“When you start utilizing historical wages to gauge how much you’re going to pay, then it just sort of carries forward, even if it’s not for a malicious reason,” he said. “It’s just for a matter of what were you paid before, that’s what you were paid, well we’ll pay you this.”

In the pandemic, more women left the workforce.

“Pay gaps are not always by gender mind you, it could be seniority, it could be skill set, it could be production,” Van Wert said. “And if you’re at work, and working more hours, then that could automatically lead to the same thing.”

Legislation in Washington is trying to close the gap. The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act allows wages to be transparently discussed in the workplace.

In January 2023, new amendments go into effect that require a job posting to indicate the salary range.

Right now, applicants have to ask the employer.

“Are we seeing changes in legislation, and evolution I think in business, yes,” Van Wert said. “But is it still an issue and a problem? Do we still see plaintiffs, and do we see cases valid plaintiff cases? Absolutely.”