SALEM — The Oregon Senate has unanimously passed an equal pay bill that allows workers to recover up to two years' of back pay by filing a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Senators amended the House bill to win support from the business community, which had previously opposed stiff penalties in the original bill.
"It is currently illegal in Oregon to pay someone differently for the same work," said Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland. "Our current legal system is not working. We know far too many people are being paid less for the same work."
The safeguard applies to women and all other protected classes, including minorities, older people and people with disabilities. The bill also prohibits employers from asking a job candidate for wage or salary history.
Sens. Taylor, a Democrat, and Tim Knopp, R-Bend, championed the House bill in the Senate and convened business and advocates groups to make several changes in the legislation.
The amendment provides a phased-in effective date and removes punitive damages when employers can show they have conducted a pay equity analysis in the past three years and made progress toward equal pay.
Another concession allows unequal pay when the inequity results from an employer paying a worker more to match another employer's offer, said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.
Knopp called the bipartisan bill a "historic agreement" and a step toward closing the wage gap, which so far has remained elusive since women joined the workforce.
The House passed the original bill March 28 by a 36-24 vote, but must now consider the Senate's changes.