On Sept. 1, Alabama becomes 49th state with a pay equity law

The Clarke-Figures Equal Pay Act takes effect Sept. 1, making Alabama the 49th state with a pay equity law. Mississippi is now the only state without a state pay equity law. The federal Equal Pay Act, which covers pay equity based on sex, has been in place since 1963.

Act No. 2019-519 by Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, and Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, prohibits both public and private employers from paying employees of equal skill, effort, education, experience and responsibility less than those of another sex or race. It does permit employers to pay employees differently based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production or other differentials not based on sex or race.

The new law will allow an employee to bring civil action for reimbursement of lost wages if wage inequality is found. Early and late in the process at the request of the Alabama Retail Association and other business groups, additional causes of action were removed from the bill, including an executive amendment that removed a phrase that would have allowed “any other relief warranted.”

Under the law, record-keeping requirements for employers will be the same as required by federal law. The Alabama Retail Association asked for that provision. Under the original legislation, employers with 50 or more employees would have had to maintain wage records, job classifications and terms and conditions of employment for three years.

Other provisions of the law:

  1. Prohibit employers from retaliating against or refusing to interview, hire or promote applicants who do not disclose their wage history. Because of the risk of a retaliation claim, Richard Lehr, an employment law expert who works closely with the Alabama Retail Association, advises that employers not ask applicants about wage history.
  2. Give employees two years to file a pay discrimination lawsuit in state court.

Much broader employment discrimination legislation – HB271 / SB342 – never received committee consideration. 

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

Reprints or republishing are welcomed but require permission. Contact us for permission.