The Impact of Transparency

April 17, 2024

On January 1st, 2023, Washington State implemented a new law designed to usher in a new era of compensation transparency in the state. It requires employers with 15 or more employees to disclose pay ranges and benefits for every open position they advertise.

Here are the details of the new law:

(1) The employer must disclose in each posting for each job opening the wage scale or salary range, and a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant. For the purposes of this section, “posting” means any solicitation intended to recruit job applicants for a specific available position, including recruitment done directly by an employer or indirectly through a third party, and includes any postings done electronically, or with a printed hard copy, that includes qualifications for desired applicants.

(2) Upon request of an employee offered an internal transfer to a new position or promotion, the employer must provide the wage scale or salary range for the employee’s new position.

(3) This section only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

(4) A job applicant or an employee is entitled to the remedies in RCW 49.58.060 and 49.58.070 for violations of this section. Recovery of any wages and interest must be calculated from the first date wages were owed to the employee.

 More info and explanation.

While not unique to Washington (similar laws had already been implemented in Colorado, California, Connecticut, Maryland (set to update shortly), Nevada, and also in New York City), lawmakers in Washington State specifically hoped to combat the gender pay gap, a persistent issue. They saw compensation transparency as a way to level the playing and discourage gender-based disparities in hiring negotiations.

But the hoped-for benefits of the law extend beyond gender equality. Employers and candidates alike benefit from a more positive hiring experience, and transparency in compensation is one factor that fosters trust to make this possible. After all, if you’re a candidate, would you rather pursue an interview with a potential employer who is up front about pay and benefits – or one who isn’t? And as an employer, would you rather spend your time speaking with fully-informed candidates from the start, or those who are more likely to bail out in the middle of the process if they discover compensation isn’t in line with their goals?


Of course, societal shifts don’t happen overnight.

One year in, how has the landscape shifted for job seekers, especially women? Have the new transparency measures encouraged fairer negotiations? In some ways, it’s still too early to tell what the real-world impact of this law will be, but as discussions around compensation become more open, there’s optimism that progress is being made.

Of course, some employers still have reservations about the changes. But, as the workforce becomes increasingly populated by Millennials and Gen Z, who value transparency and authenticity, the tide of public opinion seems to be turning.

What started as a movement in select states could soon become a nationwide standard. Already, employers across the country are embracing transparency voluntarily, even in states without robust wage transparency laws.

The journey towards equitable compensation is ongoing. Washington’s bold experiment is likely to continue sparking broader conversations about fairness and accountability in the workplace. As we navigate this new era of compensation, one thing remains certain: transparency isn’t just a trend—it’s the future.

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