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Comparable Worth in Washington

Comparable Worth is the concept that people doing jobs of comparable skill level and responsibilities should be paid the same. 

See disparity in pay in state jobs, the Washington Federation of State Employees sent a request to then Governor Dan Evans in 1973 to study the issue.    Evans authorized an initial study in 1974 and another in 1976.  The goal of the first study was to look at salary differences between state jobs primarily filled by men and women and the second to evaluate job classifications.   Evans requested funds to begin implementation of a compensation system based on a job point system in 1977 but monies were not in the final budget.  Other surveys continued in 1977, 1978 and 1980.

In 1981, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)  filed a complaint with the EEOC stating a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because of discrimination in job pay.

The Washington legislature attempted salary adjustments in 1982 but they did not pass.  In August, 1982 AFSCME filed a federal lawsuit against the state for failure to pay female dominated jobs salaries commensurate with the value of jobs identified in the studies.

Further legislative action in 1983 failed to fulfill the full elements of comparable worth and in December 1983, Federal Judge Jack Tanner ruled in AFSME v State of Washington that the state was guilty of discrimination.  The decision was reversed in 1985 by the 9th Circuit Court of appeals. After a request for a rehearing in the 9th Circuit Court, the state and plaintiffs reached in agreement to settle the lawsuit in late 1985. 

The legislature ratified the settlement plan and appropriated funds to fulfill the settlement which was implemented in 1986-92 with yearly $10,000,000 appropriations to bring all job classes to a target line by July 1992.

This Women’s History Consortium Oral History Project was conducted with ___participants actively involved in the Comparable Worth in Washington.  The interviews were conducted in early 2014.

Other Resources:

Detailed Comparable Worth Timeline from Washington State Archives.

Comparable Worth in WHC Digital Collections

Guide to Documents and Reports on Comparable Worth in the State of Washington (Washington State Archives)

1974 Norman Willis Comparable Worth Study (Washington State Archives)

1976 Norman Willis Comparable Worth Study, Phase II (Washington State Archives)

Washington State Department of Personnel, 1980 Comparable Worth Study Report

Guide to Washington Women United Papers (Washington State Historical Society)

Diana Stone, Comparable Worth in the Wake of AFSCME v. State of Washington, 1985.

United States General Accounting Office, 1992, "Pay Equity: Washington State's Efforts to Address Comparable Worth."

Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act of 2009.