OLYMPIA — A bill to help close gaps in wage and advancement opportunities among Washington workers, particularly women and workers in other protected classes, was heard in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee Monday. 

Senate Bill 5894, sponsored by Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), would expand the workplace rights and protections in the Washington Equal Pay and Advancement Opportunities Act to include protected classes beyond gender, such as age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability. 

Thanks to work by the Senate Democratic Caucus over the last few years, Washington’s Equal Pay and Advancement Opportunities Act now protects against discrimination in wages and advancement opportunities, allows workers to discuss their wages with each other, prohibits employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s prior wage history, and requires greater transparency about pay in job postings. But the act does not help workers who experience wage discrimination for reasons other than their gender. SB 5894 — and the companion HB 1905 sponsored by Rep. Sharlett Mena (D-Tacoma) — would apply to all protected classes beyond gender. 

“Every worker, irrespective of their background or identity, deserves to be treated and paid fairly and equitably,” Nobles said. “This bill is an opportunity for our state to promote pay equality and address wage gaps unrelated to your work performance.”    

Follow the bill’s progress here.