Working for Justice

New Laws Prohibit Employers from Asking Job Applicants about Their Salary Histories

Posted April 26th, 2017 by in Gender Discrimination and Harassment.

In the past year, lawmakers in Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, New York City, and Philadelphia have passed “salary history laws.” These new laws make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their current salaries or the salaries they earned at previous jobs.

To put it simply, these laws take your salary history off the table. Employers shouldn’t ask about your current or former salary in an interview or on a written application.

The principal goal of these new laws is to reduce the wage disparity between men and women. As Philadelphia’s City Council explained:

Since women are paid on average lower wages than men, basing wages upon a worker’s wage at a previous job only serves to perpetuate gender wage inequalities and leave families with less money to spend on food, housing, and other essential goods and services.

This cycle is particularly vicious for many women of color, who are disproportionately burdened by the wage gap — a fact explicitly noted in Philadelphia’s legislative findings and in a report issued by Letitia James, New York City’s Public Advocate. James was the principal sponsor of New York City’s legislation. (For some additional insight, take a look at this resource from the National Women’s Law Center and this article from the Pew Research Center.)

But, as with so many employment regulations, there are exceptions to these new rules. For instance, in New York City, the law will not protect you if you’re applying for public employee positions and the salary is set by a collectively bargained procedure. Similarly, in both New York City and Philadelphia, the law won’t apply if federal, state or local law authorizes the employer to verify your salary history.

None of the salary history laws prevent you from voluntarily disclosing your current or prior salary to a potential employer. But remember, this should be voluntary. You shouldn’t feel pressured. If you disclose your current or prior salary, then employers in Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, and New York City have the right to verify this information. In Philadelphia, the law does not explicitly give employers that right.

For now, only Puerto Rico’s law is in effect. Massachusetts’ law won’t take effect until July 1, 2018. In Philadelphia, the law was supposed to take effect on May 23, 2017, but the local Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit to overturn the law, and the law is now temporarily on hold.  In New York City, a salary history bill is awaiting Mayor Bill De Blasio’s signature.

Though simple in theory, salary history laws have nuances. If you think that a salary history law has been violated—or that you have suffered any form of employment discrimination—you should contact an experienced employment lawyer who focuses on discrimination cases.

David Tracey

David Tracey

David Tracey is a Senior Litigation Counsel in the New York office of Sanford Heisler Sharp who works primarily on discrimination and wage and hour cases. Learn More

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