On Equal Pay Day, Secretary Fagan releases report on Oregon’s Pay Equity Law, finds wage gaps remain six years after implementation.
Why this report is important
Discrimination and other systemic issues have contributed to women and people of color earning lower wages for the same or similar work as their male or white colleagues.
In 2017, the Oregon Legislature passed the Pay Equity Bill based on existing wage gaps in state government. Pay equity can improve morale and job satisfaction and help recruit and retain employees.
Despite the state’s efforts, wage gaps still exist. This report does not determine whether the gaps are due to a failure to comply with the Pay Equity Bill, or to other causes. Nevertheless, the continuing gaps are worthy of further study.
“We’ve made progress,” said Secretary Fagan. “Agencies have implemented best practices that could reduce wage gaps over time and many state employees saw their pay go up during two rounds of adjustments. On the individual level, that matters a lot. However, this report shows at the macro level we’ve still got work to do to address persistent wage gaps in our society.”
What our review found
Our analysis shows more must be done to close persistent wage gaps for women and people of color. Gaps still remain after state agencies implemented two rounds of pay equity adjustments in 2019 and 2022. These adjustments increased salaries to achieve equitable pay between employees performing the same or similar work. Raises were determined based upon the circumstances of each individual employee. Structural issues in society, such as lack of access to opportunities or not accounting for unpaid labor, such as child rearing, may be contributing to these wage gaps.
On average, we found white employees received the largest pay adjustments in 2019 and 2022 while people of color received the smallest. The median wage gap for people of color has gotten wider since 2015. Women received more raises than men, but not enough to close the median wage gap. Women of color continue to have the largest wage gaps. Further study of wage gaps is warranted to determine if legislative changes are required.
The Pay Equity Bill allows for some circumstances where wage gaps may exist due to allowable factors. For example, the legislation allows for differences in pay due to education, experience, training, and seniority. Experience and seniority appear to be a contributing factor to the wage gaps among state employees. The data shows the state’s pay equity adjustments are not sufficiently addressing some of the root causes behind existing inequities.
The state’s workforce has grown more diverse over the past 15 years. People of color have become increasingly represented, but are still underrepresented compared to the general population of Oregon.
What we suggest
We suggest the Legislature study pay equity further to determine if legislative changes are required. We also suggest the Department of Administrative Services review existing pay equity processes to determine the causes of systemic wage gaps in state government and if adjustments are needed for future pay equity studies. Adjustments could include a focus on education and culture change.