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New Equal Pay Protections Pass the New York City Council

Last week, the New York City Council passed a law preventing employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history.  The goal of this legislation, which will go into effect in 180 days, is to close the pay gap between men and women by not anchoring women to their prior salaries, which may be lower than that of their male counterparts due to past illegal discrimination. According to a report from the Public Advocate’s office, women of color are disproportionately hurt by the gender wage gap. Hispanic, Black or African American, and Asian women experience a wage gap of 46%, 55%, and 63% respectively, relative to white men in New York City.  This new law is intended to remedy the situation.

Practically speaking, this law, which amends the New York City Human Rights Law, should change hiring practices for any employer with 4 or more employees. Once the new law goes into effect, employers may not ask a job applicant, or a current or former employer, about the job applicant’s salary history. Employers cannot make decisions about what pay and benefits to offer prospective employees based on their current or past compensation history. The law even prevents employers from searching publically available records to determine the applicant’s salary. The law does not prevent employers from asking applicants about their salary expectations, and does not prevent applicants from voluntarily disclosing their salary history.  Because of this new law, employers should be careful to assess whether their current job applications or hiring processes include inquiries regarding salary history, and neutral reference policies should steer clear of providing salary information. 

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has six months to promulgate rules and regulations before this law goes into effect. Individuals will have ready access to complain to the NYC Commission on Human Rights if they believe their rights have been violated. The Commission has been actively investigating complaints made relating to all kinds of workplace discrimination, and they update their website with information about the settlements they have reached. Bottom line: employers should stop asking applicants about their salary history and applicants can stop structuring their salary requests around what they are currently being paid.