That’s History: New York City Proposes Ban on Use of Prior Salary

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has introduced before the New York City Council an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which, if enacted, would prohibit employers from requesting or relying upon the salary history of an prospective employee in making starting salary and other pay decisions.  In the bill summary, Public Advocate James and her co-sponsors conclude that when employers rely upon historical salary information, “they perpetuate the gender wage gap” and suggest that this legislation would “help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.”  New York City’s proposed legislation follows closely on the heels of a wide-reaching pay equity statute recently enacted in Massachusetts that includes a prohibition on employers requesting or requiring applicants to provide their salary history.

The proposed legislation would prohibit employers and employment agencies from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history or to rely on that history in determining salary amount “at any stage in the employment process,” including starting salary.  Prohibited inquiries include conducting a search of public records, in addition to questioning the applicant or any prior employer.  The legislation includes a carve out if the applicant “unprompted, willingly disclosed such salary history” or if the verification of salary history for employment purposes is authorized by federal, state or local law.  Nevertheless, if passed, this legislation would have a major impact on how many employers in New York City determine starting salary and offers of employment.  The bill has been referred to the New York City Council Committee on Civil Rights for further review, which typically includes an opportunity for public hearings and/or comment.

With the gender pay gap and pay transparency becoming an increased focus in the United States and abroad, prohibiting questions about, and the use of, salary history in compensation decisions during the hiring process might just become the next wave of “ban the box” legislation.