The District of Columbia will soon require employers to disclose pay ranges in job postings after Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Wage Transparency Omnibus Amendment Act of 2023 into law on Friday January 12, 2024. When it goes into effect on June 30, 2024, the District will join a growing number of states with wage transparency laws, including Illinois, California, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington State.
New Obligations for D.C. Employers
The Act applies to employers of at least one employee in the District and imposes several new employee-friendly requirements, including the obligation to include a minimum and maximum projected salary or wage rate in advertised “job listings” and “position descriptions.” The pay range must be based on the employer’s good faith belief at the time of the posting.
The Act also requires the disclosure of the healthcare benefits that will be offered with the position, before the first interview. This requirement was amended from a prior version of the Act that required disclosure of the “full schedule of benefits.” As the D.C. Council noted, merely disclosing the existence of healthcare benefits prior to the first interview will be sufficient.
Moreover, the Act prohibits employers from discrimination based on wage history. Under the Act, employers cannot require that an applicant’s wage history fall within a certain range, and employers cannot request or require an applicant to disclose his/her wage history, nor may an employer ask a former employer about an applicant’s wage history.
Finally, the Act expands existing employee protections by prohibiting retaliation against employees who discuss “compensation,” which is broadly defined as “all forms of monetary and nonmonetary benefits an employer provides or promises to provide an employee in exchange for the employee’s services to the employer.” Previously, District law only prevented retaliation against employees who discussed “wages.”
Unraveling Ambiguities in the Act
Several ambiguities in the Act may raise questions about proper compliance. The following is some general guidance to consider:
- Who Is an “Employer”? – Under the Act, an “employer” is anyone who employs at least one employee in the District of Columbia. However, it is not clear how often an employee must work in the District to bring an employer under the purview of the Act. A good rule of thumb is to follow other District employment laws, which generally consider an individual to be “employed in the District of Columbia” if the person regularly spends more than 50% of their working time in the District or a significant amount of working time in the District, but not more than 50% in any other state. See, e.g., D.C. Code 32-1003(b).
- Internal Position Postings Likely Apply – The Act does not include a comprehensive definition of “job listings” or “position descriptions,” however, the language used in the Act suggests that “job listings” and “position descriptions” should be interpreted broadly, and would include internal job opening announcements, and promotion or transfer opportunities.
- “Compensation” Should Be Construed Broadly – The Act’s prohibition on retaliation includes employee discussions about “compensation,” which includes monetary and nonmonetary benefits; yet the Act does not define the scope of these benefits. It would be advisable to interpret the definition broadly to include any remuneration provided to employees for services provided.
Employers with at least one employee in the District of Columbia will need to comply with the District’s new wage transparency law that goes into effect on June 30, 2024. To prepare, we encourage employers to check their job postings for compliance and revise as appropriate, and ensure that employees involved in the interviewing and recruiting process are properly trained to avoid asking about wage history or basing a hiring decision on an applicant’s past compensation.