Last week, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed the Wage Transparency Amendment Act (the “Act”) prohibiting private employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation with other workers.  The Act is currently awaiting the expected signature of Mayor Vincent Gray, who has previously expressed support for the measure.

The Act bars employers from:

  • requiring “that an employee refrain from inquiring about, disclosing, comparing, or otherwise discussing the employee’s wages or the wages of another employee;”
  • discharging, disciplining or otherwise retaliating against an employee “who inquires about, discloses, compares, or otherwise discusses the employee’s wages or the wages of another employee or is believed by the employer to have done so;” or
  • prohibiting or attempting to prohibit an employee from “lodging a complaint, testifying, assisting, or participating in an investigation or proceeding related to a violation of [the Act].”

The Act creates an important exception to its new protections.  Workers who come across colleagues’ pay information in the course of their job duties (e.g., Human Resources professionals) may be prohibited from sharing such information.  In addition, the Act makes clear that it does not require an employer to disclose the wages of an employee, or an employee to disclose his or her own wages in response to an inquiry by another employee.

The substance of the Act follows the example of Executive Order 13655, which was signed by President Obama in April.  That Order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to disclose or discuss their compensation.

Employers who violate the Act face civil penalties ranging from $1,000 for a first violation to $20,000 for repeated violations.  The Act does not create a private cause of action.

Once signed by the Mayor, the Act must be submitted to Congress for a 30-day period of review before becoming law.