On June 7, 2021, Governor Lamont signed House Bill Number 6380, which requires employers to disclose to applicants and employees the salary ranges for positions. Significantly, the law also expands Connecticut's prohibition of gender-based pay discrimination to require equal pay for "comparable," as opposed to "equal," work. The bill, entitled "An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Salary Ranges," goes into effect October 1, 2021.
Under the new law, an employer is prohibited from:
- Failing or refusing to provide an applicant for employment the wage range for a position for which the applicant is applying, upon the earliest of (a) the applicant's request, or (b) prior to or at the time the applicant is made an offer of compensation; or
- Failing or refusing to provide an employee the wage range for the employee's position upon (a) the hiring of the employee, (b) a change in the employee's position with the employer, or (c) the employee's first request for a wage range.
An employee or prospective employee may bring an action in court to redress any violation of these requirements within two years of the violation. A successful claimant can obtain compensatory damages, attorney's fees and costs and even punitive damages. The nature of any compensatory damages that could flow from failure to disclose pay ranges is not specified by the statute.
The law defines "wage range" as: "[T]he range of wages an employer anticipates relying on when setting wages for a position." The definition also provides that the "wage range" may include reference to any applicable pay scale, previously determined range of wages for the position, actual range of wages for those employees currently holding comparable positions or the employer's budgeted amount for the position.
Employers could face increased litigation and potentially significant liability from additional provisions of the new law that implement a "comparable worth" cause of action for wage disparity. Until amended by the Act, Connecticut's prohibition on gender-based pay discrimination provided that an employer could not pay an employee less than what the employer was paying an employee of the opposite sex for equal work. The Act now expands this prohibition to state that an employer cannot pay an employee less than what the employer is paying an employee of the opposite sex for comparable work. The test for whether work is "comparable" will be determined "when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions." An employer seeking to justify a discrepancy in pay will have the burden of showing that the difference is based on factors other than gender, such as credentials, skills and/or geographic location, in addition to those already enumerated in the statute (i.e., education, training and experience). However, the employer bears the burden of proof on these factors if it wishes to assert them as special defenses in response to such a claim.
Notably, Connecticut's new law regarding disclosure of salary ranges is among the first such legislation passed on this topic in the United States. Employers should consider adopting policies and practices that respond to the new law by its October 1, 2021 effective date, including the development of bona fide salary ranges based on objective criteria. It would also be prudent for employers to review existing salaries to identify and address disparities that could pose a risk of claims and litigation under the "comparable worth" standard of the new law.
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