Last month, the New York City Council approved legislation that bars employers from asking prospective hires to disclose their past salary. In passing the measure, New York City joins Massachusetts (see our post here), Puerto Rico and the city of Philadelphia in banning the question from job interviews and on applications. (Also see our post here regarding a recent Ninth Circuit decision addressing pay history.) The law, known as Introduction 1253-A, makes it illegal for any employer or employment agency in New York City to ask about an applicant’s salary history, including benefits, or search any publicly available records to obtain any such information. The measure, aimed at tackling pay inequity, is intended to stop perpetuating any discrimination that women or people of color may have faced in the past and to end wage disparities between men and women. A study released earlier this month by the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, shows that women in New York State earn 89 cents for every dollar that men are paid. The pay gap is wider among minority women, the study found. African American women in New York earn 66 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar.
The measure only applies to new hires, not to internal job candidates applying for a transfer or promotion given that their salary information may already be on file. It also excludes public employees whose salaries are determined by collective bargaining agreements. There are certain exceptions built into the bill whereby employers can consider salary history, including the hiring of internal candidates for different positions, workers who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employees who voluntarily give their salary history during an interview.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who co-sponsored the bill last year, said the primary focus of the bill is to promote greater transparency in the hiring process. Although it doesn’t require employers to do so, James said the bill suggests to businesses that they post salaries for jobs instead of relying on workers’ past salary.
The City’s Commission on Human Rights will investigate and enforce the measure, imposing a civil penalty of no more than $125 for an unintentional violation or up to $250,000 for an intentional malicious violation. Those figures are in line with other forms of discrimination — including race, disability and sexual orientation bias — for which the commission issues fines.
Fatima Goss Graves, president-elect of the National Women’s Law Center, said in an email that the measure “stands to transform the way that companies operate around the country,” she said. “So many companies operate in multiple jurisdictions. If a company changes its practices in New York, it is likely to also make changes around the country.” I think what we’ll see is companies that do business in New York City just eliminate that from their applications entirely,” she said. “This will have wide-ranging influence.” Meanwhile, nearly 20 states, the District of Columbia and two cities (San Francisco and Pittsburgh) have introduced legislation that includes a provision against salary history information, according to data from the NWLC.
The new legislation is expected to go into effect later this year, or 180 days after Mayor de Blasio signs the bill. Employers in New York City need to review their applications and standard job questions to ensure they remove any questions about past salaries.