OLYMPIA – A package of bills to improve the lives of women throughout the state were signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The “Putting Women First” package runs the gamut from equal pay, to the Reproductive Parity Act, to sexual harassment non-disclosure agreements, to removing barriers for harassment lawsuits, to prohibiting discrimination in employment contracts, to requiring breast density screenings and three-dimensional mammograms.
Below is additional detail on these bills and a quote from each sponsor:
House Bill 1506, companion legislation to Cleveland’s Senate Bill 5140: addressing workplace practices to achieve gender pay equity by instituting penalties for wage discrimination on the basis of gender and for offering lesser opportunities on the basis of gender, and by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their rate of pay or benefits with other employees.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver:
“When I first began fighting for pay equality in 2013, people asked me, ‘Is this still a problem?’ What they didn’t realize is that while the Equal Pay Act of 1943 called for equal pay between men and women for comparable work, the reality is that society has not caught up. Today women earn an average of 79 cents on the dollar compared to men with the same experience doing the same work.”
Reproductive Parity Act
Senate Bill 6219: The Reproductive Parity Act requires almost all health plans to cover all types of reproductive health care without cost sharing. It also requires all health plans that cover maternity care to cover abortion services. The bill was first introduced in 2012.
Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens: “Washington state has long strived to ensure women control their own reproductive destiny. This law guarantees that right and also helps provide a little more certainty for women in our state. At a time when access to health care and services are at risk all across our country, I’m proud that once again our state has stood up to protect these rights.”
Sexual Harassment Prevention
Senate Bill 5996: Encouraging the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
Senate Bill 6313: Preserving an employee’s right to publicly file a complaint or cause of action.
Senate Bill 6471: Relating to developing model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines: “I have been working on addressing sexual harassment for quite some time, and passing this group of bills is great news for the women of Washington. Right now, we are seeing a cultural shift when it comes to what is acceptable in the workplace. Women are demanding a change, and it is incumbent that those with power listen.? The fact that these bills were passed unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans shows how seriously the Legislature is taking this issue.”
Sexual Harassment NDAs
Senate Bill 6068: Shedding light on sexual harassers by removing barriers to lawsuits created by non-disclosure agreements.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: “In recent months, we have all been struck by the sheer volume and national discussion of prominent sexual harassment incidents across the country. We have seen that powerful perpetrators and enablers on company boards and other entities have hidden behind non-disclosure agreements to prevent the truth about patterns of behavior from coming out. This bill will lead to more truth and justice for victims.”
Senate Bill 5084: Providing women with timely information to improve early detection of breast cancer.
Sen. Christine Rolfes, D- Bainbridge Island: “This legislation simply allows a woman access to the same breast health information as her doctor. Knowledge is power, and this legislation will give patients the tools to make smart decisions and ask better questions about their own health.”
Senate Bill 5912: Requiring coverage of tomosynthesis, or three-dimensional mammography.
Sen. Patty Kuderer, D- Bellevue: “About one-in-eight women in the United States can expect to develop breast cancer over the course of their lives. We need to be utilizing and supporting the use of early detection technologies so that we are saving lives and sparing families the tragedy of losing their daughters, sisters, mothers and spouses. This legislation will help ensure that economic circumstance or the type of insurance you have is not a barrier to accessing this life-saving technology.”