New York Employers Can No Longer Request Salary History

In New York City, new hires have an improved shot at overcomingápay inequality: Their employers are no longeráallowed to ask them about their salary history. Mayor Bill De Blasio just signed into law anáordinance that will formally take effect in October, affecting both public and private employers.

It’s an important step in the fight for pay equality — and aáparticularly timely one.áAáfederal appeals courtárecentlyádetermined that it was acceptable to pay women less than their male coworkers, as long as salary history is theábasis for calculating compensation.

This ruling, of course, has the effect of entrenching pay disparities, as women consistently make less than men — and the disparity is even more striking for women of color.

Massachusetts is the national leader on this issue.áIn 2016, the stateábarred soliciting information about past salaries. Now, New York joins Philadelphia on the list of cities that haveáconsidered this approach to pay equity and put it into action.

Under the law, employers can’t ask about past pay scales, nor may they conduct research to suss out that information on their own. Potential new hires or people negotiating contracts mayástill provide that information voluntarily.

Ample evidence shows that women tend to make less than men overall, and some of that difference stemsáfrom being offered less money for performing the same work.

From the start, women generallyáearn less, illustrating that this is a systemic problem — and one that can become entrenched when the pay increase that comes with a new job is based on past salary. Furthermore, when women try to negotiate, they’re often penalized in a way that men are notá– one reason some companies have banned salary negotiations.

There are lots of factorsáemployers can use when weighing how much to offer a new hire in New York, including the person’s education, experience, skills orádocumented past performance. And it’s entirely legal to request evidence for all these things during the hiring and job offer process. One questionáthey won’t be able to ask, however, is how much someone made.

The bill was written and championed by New York’s Public Advocate, Letitia James, who claims New York City women lose almost $6 million to the pay gap every year. Jamesáargues that “being underpaid once” can create a snowball effect that puts a woman at a permanent disadvantage.

Should new hires feel they’ve experienced discrimination — as for example, if they are pressured to disclose past salary history — they can file a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission. If an investigation confirms a violation, employers may have to pay a fine of up to $250,000 — a pretty solid incentive to comply with the regulation.

Naysayers who claim that unequal pay doesn’t exist or think such laws are unnecessary should pay close attention to New York. It’s highly likely that researchers will use the city toáexplore how such laws affect pay inequality. While it may take many years to see the long-term effect of this law, it should yield some fascinating data across one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Will New York’s women — especially women of color — find themselves on more equal footing after five years of this legislation, or ten? Proponents certainly hope so, as this could promptáother cities and states to follow suit.

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat


Greta H
Greta H1 months ago


Carl R
Carl R1 months ago


Jennifer H
Jennifer H1 months ago

Smart move New York. This must become national.

Jerome S
Jerome S2 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim V2 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Carl R
Carl R2 months ago


Joan E
Joan E2 months ago

I like the idea of not being stuck in low-paying jobs due to one's past low-paying jobs. Who's to say that some people aren't just getting bad breaks, or are discriminated against because of their color or gender or religion or appearance? Who's to say that those who are making big salaries really deserve that? Our society favors the haves way too much.

william Miller
william Miller2 months ago


Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Deborah W
Deborah W2 months ago

SHOULD NEVER BE AN ACCEPTED ISSUE. Each side has a right to an "average mean" range upon which they can negotiate if all else falls into place. That's fair. (Wouldn't it be nice if the initial interview was based on the model of the blinds at THE VOICE ... quality, capability, responses to specific situations, etc., all cleared up prior to an actual face to face?) Love to see someone test that ....