Team Management

The Employer’s State-by-State Guide to Pay Equity Laws

J.J. Starr  
A multi-racial group of people stand and sit at a conference table looking through papers

Pay equity is important to company success, not solely because it’s important to follow the law. There are many benefits to offering equal pay for equal work. This article will cover the definitions and benefits of pay equity, as well as offer an easy-to-use table of pay equity laws in each state. 

What is pay equity?

Pay equity is a concept of labor rights which posits that individuals should earn equal pay for equal work. Put into practice, pay equity is meant to resolve wage inequality based on sociopolitical identity markers—gender, race, and other factors. 

The roots of pay equity come from first-wave feminism—a movement from the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century which sought women’s rights for voting and pay equity, among other legal protections. 

Though the goal of equal pay for equal work has arguably not been fully realized, we’ve come a long way. The last 150 years have seen major changes. It was once common to offer completely different compensation for the same work based on race or gender.

Why is pay equity important?

The main goal of pay equity is to create a more fair workplace. It is ethical to pay equal wages for equal work. Offering equal compensation is a crucial step toward creating a more equitable society. 

Beyond ethics, pay equity serves important functions in creating a peaceful workplace for all members of society. Within an employment organization, pay equity inspires loyalty and trust between employees and employers. When employees are treated fairly, they are more likely to feel happy with their work—and happy employees perform better.

But equal pay offers more than productivity. Providing equal pay gives employers the ability to hire a more diverse workforce. Diversity is important, and it yields many benefits to organizations:

  • Increases profitability
  • Increases depth of customer knowledge
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Reduces conflicts
  • Advances company reputation

Pay equity laws state-by-state

State or JurisdictionProtected Class(es)What qualifies as equal work?When are pay differences allowed?Geographical limits for pay differential?Can employers inquire about salary history?
FederalSexEqual responsibility, skill, and effort are performed in comparable working conditionsWhen pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of productionSame establishmentNot specified in federal law
ALGender
Race
Jobs that “require equal skill, effort, education, experience, and responsibility, and performance under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of productionSame locationEmployers can ask for salary history, but cannot retaliate against a candidate who refuses to share their salary history.
AKGender“Work of comparable character or work in the same operation, business, or type of work in the same locality”When the “reasonable demands of the position…require a distinction” on the basis of an identity trait Same locationNot addressed
AZGenderWork “in the same establishment for the same quantity and quality of the same classification of work”Any “reasonable” pay difference when exercised “in good faith” so long as it is not based on sexSame establishment or locationNot addressed
ARGenderWork that “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions”When related to a “bona fide factor” is job-related and is consistent with business necessityNot specified in state lawNot addressed
CAEthnicity
Gender
Race
“Substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production or a factor other than sexNeither permitted nor prohibited Not allowed, but a candidate can offer salary history if unprompted.
COGender“Substantially similar work, regardless of job title, based on a composite of skill; effort, which may include consideration of shift work; and responsibility"When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production, geographical location, education, training, experience, or required travelYes, but must be applied reasonablyNot permitted. Employers must also include compensation in job postings.
CTGenderWork that “requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production or a factor other than sexNot specified in state lawNot allowed
DEGender“Equal work on a job that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that is performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or any factor other than sex”Same workplaceNot allowed
DCPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
FLSexEqual responsibility, skill, and effort are performed in comparable working conditions Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or any factor other than sex” when exercised “in good faith” Not specified in state lawNot addressed
GASex“Comparable work on jobs which require the same or essentially the same knowledge, skill, effort and responsibility”Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or any factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
HISex“Equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, a bona fide occupational qualification, or any permissible factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot allowed
IDSex“Jobs which have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility”“Differentials which are paid pursuant to established seniority systems or merit increase systems, which do not discriminate on the basis of sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
ILAfrican-Americans Sex“The same or substantially similar work on jobs the performance of which requires substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or any factor other than sex, race, or any “factor that would constitute unlawful discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act”Same countyNot allowed
INSexEqual responsibility, skill, and effort are performed in comparable working conditions Differentials “based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, a bona fide occupational qualification, or any permissible factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
IAAge
Color
Disability
Gender identity
National origin
Religion/creed
Sex
Sexual Orientation
Jobs that “require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, a bona fide occupational qualification, or any permissible factor other than “age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability of such employee”Same establishmentNot addressed
KSSexJobs that “require equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “ based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, a bona fide occupational qualification, or any permissible factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
KYSex“Jobs which have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility”“Differentials which are paid pursuant to established seniority systems or merit increase systems, which do not discriminate on the basis of sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
LAPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
MESex“Comparable work on jobs that have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility”Differentials “which are paid pursuant to established seniority systems or merit increase systems, which do not discriminate on the basis of sex”Same establishmentNot allowed, but a candidate can offer salary history if unprompted.
MDGender
Identity
Sex
“Work of comparable character or work on the same operation, in the same business, or of the same type.” Also prohibited is the act of “providing less favorable employment opportunities based on sex or gender identity.”Pay descrepancies that are based on a seniority or a merit system, a system based on quantity or quality, jobs requiring different skills, abilities, or that perform different duties, services, or performed at different times of day, or other “bona fide” reason that is not based on “sex or gender identity”Same countyNot allowed
MAGender“Work that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions”Differences based on a seniority system, geographical location, production, sales, revenue-based system, merit system, travel requirement, or relating to an employee's education, training, or experience Same geographic areaNot allowed
MISexWork that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditionsDifferentials based on a seniority or merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, a bona fide occupational qualification, or any permissible factor other than sexAllowed without stipulationsYes. State law even prohibits localities from enacting salary history bans.
MNSexWork that “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any other factor other than sex”Not specified in state lawNot addressed
MSNot discussed in state lawNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
MOWomenWork “in the same establishment for the same quantity and quality of the same classification of work”Differentials based on “seniority, length of service, ability, skill, difference in duties or services performed, difference in the shift or time of day worked, hours of work, or restrictions or prohibitions on lifting or moving objects in excess of specified weight, or other reasonable differentiation, or factors other than sex, when exercised in good faith”Same establishmentNot addressed.
MTWomenPay for “equivalent service or for the same amount or class of work or labor”Not specifiedSame establishment or place of employmentNot addressed
NESex“Jobs which require equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions”Differentials based on “ an established seniority system; a merit increase system; or a system which measures earning by quantity or quality of production or any factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
NVSexWork that “requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and which is performed under similar working conditions”Differentials based on a seniority system, merit system, quality or quantity of work, or based on any factor other than sexSame establishmentNot addressed
NHSex“Work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions”Differentials based on seniority, merit, performance, expertise, shift differentials, or other factor other than sex”Not specified in state lawNot addressed
NJAge
Ancestry
Color
Disability

Domestic partnership status
Gender identity or expression
Genetics
Marital status
National origin
Pregnancy or breastfeeding
Religion/creed
Sex
Sexual Orientation
“Substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility”Differentials based on “a seniority system, a merit system, or bona fide factors other than the characteristics of members of the protected class”All of an employer’s operations or facilitiesNot allowed
NMSexEqual responsibility, skill, and effort are performed in comparable working conditionsCompensation based on a seniority or merit system or system based on quantity or quality of production Same establishmentNot addressed
NYAge
Disability
Domestic violence
history
status
Familial status
Genetics
Marital status
Military status
National origin
Race
Religion or creed
Sex
Sexual orientation
Work that “requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions”Differentials based on a seniority system, merit system, quality or quantity of work, or based on any factor other than sex.Same geographical region— no bigger than a countynOT ALLOWED
NCEqual pay and pay discrimination is not direcly addressed, but a general non-discrimination statute exists.Not applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
NDGender“Jobs that have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort, and responsibility”Differentials based on “seniority systems, systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production, merit systems, or a bona fide factor other than gender”Same establishmentNot addressed
OHAge
Ancestry
Color
National origin
Race
Religion
Sex
Work that “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar conditions”Differentials based on a seniority system, merit system, system based on quality or quantity of production, or any factor other than race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or ancestry”Not specified in state lawNot addressed
OKWomen“Jobs which have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility”Differentials based on “ a seniority system; a merit system; a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or on any factor other than sex”Not specified in state lawNot addressed
ORAge
Color
Disability
Gender
Marital status
National origin
Race
Religion
Sex
Sexual orientation
Veteran status
“Work of comparable character”Differentials based on a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or based on location, travel, education, or trainingWithin the same workplace locationNot allowed
PASex“Work under equal conditions on jobs which require equal skills”Differentials based on “a seniority, training or merit increase system that does not discriminate on the basis of sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
PRSexWork that “requires the same skill, effort, and responsibilities under similar working conditions”Differentials based on “a bona fide seniority or merit system, system based on quality or quantity of production, education, training, experience, or other reasonable factor other than sex”Not specified in state lawNot allowed
RI*SexWork that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditionsDifferentials based on “a bona fide seniority or merit system, system based on quality or quantity of production, education, training, experience, or other reasonable factor other than sex”Not specified in state lawNot addressed
SCPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
SDSex“Comparable work on jobs which have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort, and responsibility”Differentials based on “seniority systems, job descriptive systems, merit increase systems, executive training programs”Same locationNot addressed
TNSexJobs that “require comparable skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions”Differentials “based on a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quality or quantity of production, or any other reasonable differential that is based on a factor other than sex”Same establishmentNot addressed
TXPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
UTPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableNot addressed
VTSexWork that “requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production or a factor other than sexNot specified in state lawNot allowed
VASexJobs that “require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production, or a factor other than sexWithin any establishmentNot addressed
WAGenderJobs that “require similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production, or a “bona fide” factor other than sexOnly if qualified by a regional difference in compensationNot allowed
WVSex“Work of comparable character, the performance of which requires comparable skills”Differentials based on a “seniority or merit system,” or based on factors other than sexNot specified in state lawNot addressed
WIPay discrimination is not allowed under non-discrimination statuteNot applicableNot applicableNot applicableYes. State law even prohibits localities from enacting salary history bans.
WYSexJobs that “require equal skill, effort and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions”When pay is related to seniority, merit, quantity of production, quality of production, or a factor other than sexSame establishmentNot addressed

* Rhode Island equal pay rules will change January 1, 2023 to include these additional protected classes: race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age (40 years or older), or ancestry.

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