Don’t ask about salary history in NYC, Tish James’ bill tells employers

Aims to help historically underpaid groups

May 5, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a bill sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James (above) prohibiting employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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In a move designed to benefit historically disadvantaged groups of people, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday signed a bill prohibiting all employers in New York City from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history.

De Blasio said it was unacceptable that women and people of color are frequently paid less for the same work as their white, male counterparts.

The bill was sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, who said in a release, “This law is 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.”

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A job applicant’s previous compensation is often used by employers to determine starting pay in a new position. This perpetuates a cycle of lower wages for women and people of color throughout their working lives, even when they perform the same work as traditionally higher paid white men.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that under the bill, which goes into effect in 180 days, people would be able to better negotiate a fair salary and prevent underpayment throughout their professional lives.

Business groups opposed the legislation, however.

The Partnership for New York City, which represents the city’s largest employers, pushed against the bill in its written testimony to the Committee on Civil Rights in December.

The Partnership called the bill “an inappropriate intervention by municipal government into the relationship between private employers and their prospective employees … Understanding an applicant’s salary history early in the hiring process is critical to an efficient and fair recruiting and hiring process. It also helps employers direct applicants to appropriate positions and decreases the chances of a mismatch in expectations,” the Partnership testified. “If salary history is not disclosed, it will increase result in a longer, more expensive and less precise hiring process that benefits no one.”

No more ‘nickeled and dimed’

Brooklyn officials, wage advocacy groups and black, Hispanic, Asian and Muslim groups praised the bill.

“Women can no longer afford to be nickeled and dimed; it is time to level the paying field,” Cumbo said. 

“The fact that employers will no longer be able to ask candidates about their pay history will provide needed protection to all Asian New Yorkers, who earn disproportionately less than their white counterparts,” Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of Asian American Federation, said.

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, similar to the pay gap seen across the country. Black women make 64 cents to every white male dollar, while Latina women make 54 cents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Minority men have also been traditionally disadvantaged. According to the Pew Research Institute, in 2015, black men earned 73 percent of white men’s hourly earnings, while Hispanic men earned 69 percent.

While the law, Intro. 1253, prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history and using it to set their new salary, it does allow employers to discuss with job applicants their expectations about salary, benefits and other compensation.

People who think a potential employer broke the law can file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

De Blasio previously signed Executive Order 21, which prohibits city agencies from inquiring about the salary history of job applicants. The new bill expands this order to all employers.


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