Bipartisan bills introduced in both houses of the South Carolina General Assembly propose allowing workers and job applicants to bring suit against employers for pay inequality and wage secrecy.

The Act to Establish Pay Equity, introduced as Senate Bill 372 along with its similar companion in the House, would expand employees’ and applicants’ rights regarding pay disparity, wage transparency, and prohibit reliance on prior pay in determining an applicant’s job offer.

The federal Equal Pay Act of 1964 requires equal pay for equal work for men and women. The South Carolina Act goes further. As with other state pay equity laws, the South Carolina Act would require employees be paid the same wages for “comparable work” regardless of their “race; religion; color; sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation; age; national origin; or disability status.” Additionally, the Act would require employers to allow employees to discuss their wages and to disclose the pay range for positions to job applicants and employees upon request, when making a job offer, and annually thereafter. The Act would make it unlawful for an employer to consider a job applicant’s pay from previous employment when making an offer of employment.

The potential damages and penalties under the Act would be significant. The proposed Act allows job applicants and employees to bring lawsuits against employers who violate the Act both individually and in collective actions. Damages under the Act includes punitive damages. Employers may be liable for a civil penalty between $1,000 and $5,000 for every violation for each employee or job applicant.

We will continue to monitor and report on the South Carolina bill and other pay equity developments. Please contact any member of the Jackson Lewis Pay Equity Resource Group with any questions.