Law Bans Employers From Asking Candidates About Salary History

Image Credit: NYC Human Rights Commission.

New local law bans employers from asking applicants about past salaries. On October 31, 2017, the new city-wide Salary History Law took effect. Public Advocate Letitia James, introduced the legislation in August 2017 in response to a report that women in the City earned $5.8 billion less than men in annual wages. Women in City government suffered a wage gap two-to-three times larger than women working in the private sector, with women of color hurt more than women from other backgrounds.

The new law, Local Law 67 (2017), bans employers from inquiring about and/or relying on an applicant’s previous salaries. The intent is to push employers to provide equal compensation by not continuing the history of unfair wages that would otherwise follow women throughout their careers. The law covers internships, and applies to all employers in the City regardless of the size of the business.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the new law and has issued multiple guidelines for both employers and applicants. The Commission on Human Rights is also responsible for enforcing the law against offenders. The Commission may impose a fine of up to $125,000 for unintentional offenses, and up to $250,000 if the violation is found to be “willful” and “malicious.” Lesser penalties involve being subjected to mandated training. Additionally, an individual injured by a violation may bring a civil lawsuit for damages.

Individuals who have faced salary history discrimination may contact the Commission to report the offense by telephone by calling (718) 722-3131 or 311.

During a December 12, 2016 meeting of the Council’s Committee on Civil Rights, the Chair Darlene Mealy asked Deputy Commissioner Brittny Saunders how the Commission planned on informing the public about the new law. Deputy Commissioner Saunders described how the Commission has implemented social media initiatives using advertisements and the hashtag #SalaryHistoryNYC. In addition, the Commission’s official website has been updated with the guidelines and downloadable advertisements including all of the information for both employers and employees. Deputy Commissioner Saunders also stated that in the past the Commission has hosted trainings when new legislation has been implemented and that training is being considered.

New Commission guidelines include “Best Practices” which involve encouraging an employer to focus on the applicant’s salary demands, skills and qualifications during the hiring process. The employer must remove past salary related questions from current applications, and formally modify the written policies, and educate interviewers and other hiring staff on the new law. If the employee voluntarily brings up salary information, or it is accidentally discovered through provided forms that past salary information is not to be relied on by the employer when making salary determinations.

New York City is the third government to pass a law banning salary employers from making salary history inquiries. Massachusetts and Philadelphia have adopted similar laws that will take effect Spring of 2018.

By: Samantha Albanese (Samantha is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2019).

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