Equal Pay Transparency Laws and Employment-Based Green Cards
Answers to some common questions on state-level Equal Pay Transparency Laws and employment green cards
What are Equal Pay Transparency (EPT) laws?
A number of states have started to implement Equal Pay Transparency (EPT) statutes to ensure that pay ranges are made explicit during the employment recruitment process. This sort of transparency is meant to secure equitable payment among existing and new employees.
Employers should be aware of these laws because, while not directly related to immigration, they can have a great impact on the green card petitioning process for non-U.S. employees. Anyone wishing to sponsor an employee seeking a green card will need to satisfy the criteria of locally enforced statutes, such as EPT laws.
In this guide, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions surrounding Equal Pay Transparency (EPT) laws and their impact on employment-based green cards. For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll use Washington State as the example case, although these laws vary from state to state.
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Which States Enforce EPT Laws?
There are currently 9 states implementing their own version of EPT laws:
- New York
- Rhode Island
It should be noted that Illinois is set to start enforcement on January 1st, 2025, and there are 14 states in the process of considering EPT laws. They are:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Certain local municipalities have their own set of transparency statutes:
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- Ithaca, New York
- New York CIty, New York
- Westchester County, New York
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Toledo, Ohio
It’s important that employers work together with both employment and immigration attorneys to understand the relevant jurisdiction’s particular requirements.
What Do Employers Have to Include in Their Job Listings Under EPT Laws?
As noted above, since all EPT state laws are different, we’ll use Washington as our example case in this guide.
Washington’s EPT law went into effect on January 1, 2023. Washington employers must include a salary range, a list of included benefits, and any other form of indirect payment, such as stock options, bonuses, and commissions. If an employee requests information on salary ranges after being promoted or transferred, the employer must oblige. Employers may not prohibit the hiring of Washington-based workers in order to circumvent the law.
What are the Consequences of Breaking EPT Laws?
As per Washington State Law, if no resolution is reached between the employer and employee, the investigator (named “the director”) may pursue the following:
- Payment to compensate for damages incurred by the employee
- $5,000, if greater than the actual damages
- 1% interest (paid monthly) on compensation due to the employee
- Compensation to pay for any expenses incurred as a result of the investigation and enforcement
The director may also pursue civil penalties, which would amount to $500 upon the first violation and $1,000 — or 10% of damages if that’s a greater sum — for the second. Penalties must be paid for each employee impacted by the violation. The employee must file a civil complaint within 3 years of the offense.
The employer must also calculate interest and wages for the 4 years prior to the violation preceding the filing of the civil suit.
Do the EPT Laws Apply to all Companies?
In the case of Washington stat, EPT laws only apply to Washington-based companies — or companies recruiting in this state — with 15 or more employees.
How do EPT Laws Affect Employment-based Green Card Petitions?
The permanent labor certification (PERM) — which precedes the filing of Form I-140 (“Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker”) and which is processed by the Department of Labor (DOL) — does not require the disclosure of wages. That being said, employers must comply with the relevant EPT laws in their jurisdiction when completing the PERM certification. The Department of Justice (DOJ) settled a suit in 2021 specifically due to their not complying with standard recruitment practices during the PERM certification process.
For this reason, it’s imperative that employers coordinate the efforts of their immigration team and their general counsel to ensure that all their bases are covered. Learn more about Boundless’ legal immigration support for businesses and international employees here.
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