Rhode Island has its own version of a pay equity law moving through its legislature that gives us great cause for concern. So much so that we wanted to separately identify it for you here! This week, the Senate Labor Committee unanimously recommended passage of S.2475, which allows employees to be paid differently if the differential is based on (1) seniority, (2) a merit system or (3) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or is a bona fide factor such as travel, or a business necessity. Now here is the real kicker! If the employee can show that an alternative to the business practice exists that would serve the same business purpose, and the business refuses to adopt the alternative, then the wage differential is unacceptable and the employer is in violation of the law! Further, employers cannot ask for wage history at the time of interview or at the time of offering a job. In addition, nobody’s wages can be lowered to meet the equal pay requirement only increased, and any employee that successfully challenges their wage is entitled to unpaid back wages, benefits, other compensatory damages and liquidated damages equal to three times the unpaid wages and benefits owed! And for good measure, an employer who asks for salary history can be on the hook for up to $10,000 in special damages and punitive damages if the question was deemed to have been done with malice or reckless indifference. Late yesterday, the House Labor Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on its own version of the pay equity bill, H.7427, which contains the same egregious provisions. In addition, the yesterday’s committee hearing was also going to include deliberation of H.7636, a minimum wage proposal that hikes the wage to $11 next January and then a $1 more each January thereafter until it reaches $15 in 2023! That bill would also increase the tipped wage $1.25 annually until it equals the full state minimum wage.