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Pay Equity Study FAQ

Updated May 27, 2021

1. What is the Pay Equity Study?

On June 1, 2017, Governor Brown signed into law House Bill 2005 “the Pay Equity Bill” expanding pay equity protections for Oregonians. This law created new requirements for Oregon employers under the Oregon Equal Pay Act. The new protections require Oregon employers to pay employees equitably, when doing comparable work with similar qualifications.

The City last conducted a pay equity analysis in 2018 and adjusted employees’ pay to comply with the law that took effect on January 1, 2019. The City must conduct a pay equity analysis every three years to ensure continued compliance with the law. This means we must complete another pay equity analysis by December 31, 2021.

The Pay Equity Study seeks to gather information, analyze pay, report on our findings, and make recommendations regarding equitable pay in accordance with the law.

In addition to compliance, the City is committed to upholding and modeling the core values of equity, transparency, communication, collaboration, and fiscal responsibility. The approach utilized to conduct this study strives to center the City’s core values and your experience as a member of the workforce.

2. How often will the City conduct Pay Equity Studies?

The City conducts, at a minimum, a Pay Equity Study every three (3) years to spot check our daily and ongoing compliance measures with Oregon’s Equal Pay Act. The last study was conducted in 2018 and changes were implemented on January 1, 2019.

The cycle of a 3-year analysis provides the opportunity to improve and further advance our core values. A survey will be launched upon completion of this years’ analysis providing the opportunity to learn

3. What is the Oregon Equal Pay Act? 

The expansion of the Oregon Equal Pay Act in 2017 makes it unlawful for any Oregon employer:

• To discriminate between employees, in wages and other compensation for “work of comparable character,” based on protected class; or
• To seek or use the salary history of a job applicant (other than a current employee) before an employment and salary offer has been made; or
• To screen applicants based on current or past compensation; or
• To determine compensation for a position based on current or past compensation of a prospective employee (not applicable to current employees).

4. What is a pay equity analysis? 

A pay equity analysis is an evaluation process to assess and correct wage disparities among employees performing work of a comparable character. Only employees performing comparable work will be compared against one another in the pay equity analysis.

Employees with similar qualifications (e.g., experience, education) relevant and necessary for the position held who do work of comparable character should be compensated similarly. Qualifications that are not relevant or necessary for the position held are not part of the pay equity analysis (e.g., an advanced degree in another field unrelated to the position currently held; years of experience in an unrelated job).

5. What is work of comparable character? 

Work of comparable character are jobs that require substantially similar knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions in the performance of assigned duties.

6. How does the City determine who is performing work of comparable character?

The City will use the employees’ assigned job classification, job family, and job sub- family to determine which employees are performing comparable work.
For more information about job families and sub-families, please visit our FAQ.

7. Are there any scenarios where some employees performing work of comparable character could be compensated differently than others? 

Yes. Employees performing work of comparable character may be compensated at different levels if the differences are based entirely on one or more “bona fide factors” that are specifically provided for in the law.

8. What are the bona fide factors provided for in the law? 

The bona fide factors that permit employees performing work of comparable character to be paid differently are a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earning by quantity or quality of production (such as piece-rate), workplace location, travel (if regular and necessary for employment - this does not include commuting to work), education, training, and/or experience.

The entire compensation difference must be based on one or more of these factors. It is the City’s sole discretion to choose what bona fide factors to use, or not use, in conducting the pay equity analysis and determining pay equity between employees performing work of comparable character.

9. I received an email from Tracy Warren in Class & Comp saying I’d receive an Employee Pay Equity Survey, and I did not receive it. How do I get a copy?

Some users (not all) have the ‘show focused inbox’ selected. With this selected the email you referenced will probably show up in the ‘other’ folder.

If you check the “Other” inbox folder and do not see the survey, please send an email to to request an individualized link to the Employee Pay Equity Survey be provided.

10. Is the email titled “Employee Pay Equity Survey” legitimate (i.e., not spam)?

Yes. This email is being sent on behalf of the City of Portland by the USC Race & Equity Center. The sender email address is “National Assessment Collegiate Campus Climate” at

11. What information is the City using to evaluate equitable pay under the law?

We are using your self-reported non-City employment work history and education gathered via employee survey, your City work history gathered from SAP (the City’s human resources information system), and the comparable work characteristics from your assigned job classification, job family, and job sub-family (see above).

12. Why does the Pay Equity Survey ask for only my work history from outside of the City?

Because the City already has your complete City work history including positions held, dates of employment, and your past hourly/salary rates in a database. SAP (the City’s human resources information system) contains your work history for the positions you’ve held at the City. We will supplement the information you provide in the pre-City employment/demographics survey with information from SAP to have a full picture of your experience.

13. Should I include volunteer experience in my survey response? 

Yes. Volunteer experience that is equivalent to your current role at the City will be included in the evaluation. You can add this information in the survey in the job history section.

14. Why doesn’t the Pay Equity Survey let me enter training, certificates, and licensure?

While job related certificates, licensures, and trainings are valuable and important for continuing your professional growth and may provide a competitive edge in recruitment, hiring, and merit increases, it is not used in salary calculations.

The many varied certificates, licensures, and trainings employees may have obtained are not easily measured and are hard to quantify into a dollar amount that is consistent and equitable. The law requires that any system used to justify a compensation difference must be consistent and verifiable. Because there is no consistent and verifiable way to quantify the value of additional trainings, certificates, and licensures, the City does not consider them in the pay equity study or in setting initial pay at the City.

15. What if I made a mistake or want to add more information to my survey after I submitted?

To reopen the survey, you can send an email to USC Race & Equity Center at A project team member will reopen the survey, allowing you to correct or add information to the survey.

16. How long do I have to complete the survey?

All survey response must be submitted by July 14, 2021 for the response to be included in the study.

17. Is the Pay Equity Survey mandatory?

No. It is not mandatory but strongly encouraged to ensure we have a full picture of your education and work experience.

18. What happens if I do not complete the Pay Equity Survey? 

If you do not submit a survey, the City can only conduct a pay equity analysis using the data already available in SAP, i.e., your City work history. The risk is that we may not have a full understanding of your education and work experience.

19. Will I receive a pay cut because of the Pay Equity Study?

No. The Oregon Equal Pay Act does not allow for pay to be reduced to meet compliance with the law.

20. What if my pay is above other employees who perform work of comparable character and there is not a bona fide factor that justifies the pay difference?

The law provides two main options:

• Adjust the pay of the lower paid employee’s salary upward to a rate that meets compliance, OR
• Redline /freeze pay of the higher paid employees until the pay of lower paid employee’s pay reaches compliance with pay equity.

The City has not determined what approach will be followed for the Pay Equity Study. This decision will be in collaboration with City Council and Leadership.

21. Will I know if my pay has been redlined? Will I know how long my pay will be frozen for?

If your pay is redlined or frozen, you will receive written notice, most likely by email to your City email address. At this time, no decisions have been made as to whether anyone’s pay will be frozen or not, or for how long. Until the Pay Equity Study has concluded and specific pay inequities have been identified, quantified, and brought to City leadership for decision making, it is not possible to know what course of action the City will take. This FAQ will be updated as additional information becomes available.

22. How will pay increases for lower paid employees be made?

If the City decides to increase the pay of lower paid employees to meet compliance, you will receive written notice, most likely by email to your City email address. At this time, no decisions have been made as whether anyone’s pay will be increased. Until the Pay Equity Study has concluded and specific pay inequities have been identified, quantified, and brought to City leadership for decision making, it is not possible to know what course of action the City will take.

23. Why is the City partnering with the University of Southern California (USC) Race and Equity Center?

The USC Race & Equity Center is a research and advisory group specializing in conducting pay equity studies and other equity, diversity, and inclusion-focused work. USC Race & Equity Center helps employers across varying industries and sectors conduct proactive and self-driven pay equity audits to determine whether any pay disparities exist within their organization. The Center’s expertise in analyzing qualitative data better positions the City to look beyond the numbers to identify root causes contributing to avoidable pay gaps, to the extent that pay gaps have arisen since the City’s last pay equity study.

24. Why is the City collecting information about my protected characteristics?

Oregon’s Pay Equity law states, every worker must receive equitable pay for comparable work regardless of gender, race, age, or other protected characteristics. The City will use this information to evaluate our pay practices in relation to the identified protected characteristics.

Incomplete data could create challenges in ensuring all employees are paid equitably regardless of gender, race, age, or other protected characteristics. The submission of your demographic information is voluntary and is not used to make pay decisions.

25. Why is the City asking for experience information again when I provided it in 2018?

In 2018, the City conducted an initial pay equity study which included a short survey to employees. No system was in place in 2018 when the data was collected to preserve that information long term. Additionally, some employees indicated that they did not understand the purpose that the data was being collected for, and that as a result, they only gave partial information rather than the complete picture the City requested. To ensure a higher quality and confidence in the data used, employees need to complete a new survey self-reporting their education and pre-City work experience.

26. Is there a way to save the survey information to be used in the next study?

Yes. The City has worked with BTS to create more fields in SAP (the City’s human resources information system) to maintain data regarding an employee’s education and work experience from outside the City. This will help us to save information for future use.