Job seekers cleared a major hurdle this week to offset the sketchy question from human resources interviewers to tell you salary history after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill prohibiting all employers in the city from asking it.
Advocates for the measure, which Public Advocate Letitia James sponsored and successfully ushered through the City Council, say restricting questions regarding an applicant’s previous compensation will help put an end to suppressed wages for women and people of color within their workforce.
“It is unacceptable that we’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work. The simple fact is that women and people of color are frequently paid less for the same work as their white, male counterparts,” said de Blasio. “This Administration has taken bold steps to combat the forces of inequality that hold people back, and this bill builds upon the progress we have made to close the pay gap and ensure everyone is treated with the respect they deserve.”
James called the new law a major step toward achieving pay equity, particularity for women. “By prohibiting employers from asking about salary history during the hiring process, we will ensure that being underpaid once does not condemn anyone to a lifetime of inequity,” she said.
Under the bill, which goes into effect in 180 days, employers are allowed to discuss with job applicants their expectations about salary, benefits and other compensation. If an applicant, voluntarily and without prompting, discloses salary history to an employer, the employer may consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for such applicant, and may verify that salary history.
Individuals can file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which has the ability to fine employers with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the law, and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. The Commission will also create educational materials on this protection and conduct community outreach to ensure that NYC workers’ know their rights.
The measure comes as women continue to earn less than men and are more likely to live in poverty. The income gaps are widest among women of color, older women, immigrants, and women without a high school degree.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the mean income for women in New York City was equivalent to just 80 percent of what men earned, a gap of $10,470. The report also showed that across the United States, women employed full-time lose a combined total of more than $840 billion each year due to the wage gap.
Reports on the gender wage gap vary slightly across the board, but according to 2015 U.S Census Bureau data, women earn approximately 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The problem is even more evident for women of color, compared to what white males make: Black women make 64 cents to every white male dollar, while Latina women make 54 cents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Critics of the bill include Kathryn Wylde, president & CEO of the Partnership for New York City, who told reporters the measure has not been carefully vetted with employers and opens them up to litigation without any evidence that there are commensurate benefits.
In a Bloomberg editorial, the legislation was called “policymaking by anecdote,” and said there is a real danger that such a ban could backfire. “If employers are legally barred from asking about salary, they might instead guess at what an applicant earns—and guess lower if that person is female,” the editorial stated.
But the measure also drew many supporters among Brooklyn lawmakers.
“Women represent half of our city’s population and workforce; and yet we have been shortchanged by the very economic system that would not flourish without our contributions.” said City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights).
“Debt, poverty, and homelessness are the realities faced by women living paycheck to paycheck – unable to meet the inflated cost of living in this city. Women can no longer afford to be nickeled and dimed; it is time to level the paying field,” she added.
Other Brooklyn Lawmakers that supported the bill in the release the Administration sent out includes City Council Members Rafael Espinal and Stephen Leven, Assemblymembers Pam Harris and Jo Anne Simon and State Sen. Jesse Hamilton.