Bill Banning Salary History Questions Goes Before House

By Kathy Gurchiek Sep 16, 2016
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Employers would no longer be allowed to ask job applicants about their salary histories under a bill introduced in Congress Sept. 14.

The bill by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is designed to even the playing field among men and women and minorities doing substantially the same work.


SHRM Online reported last week that a spokesperson from Norton's office projected that the bill would be introduced in the House of Representatives this week. Congress referred the bill to its House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Under the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 (H.R. 6030), the U.S. Department of Labor would be able to assess fines up to $10,000 against employers who violate the law by asking questions about an applicant's salary history. Additionally, prospective or current employees would be able to bring a private lawsuit against an employer who violated the law and could receive up to $10,000 in damages plus attorney fees.

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

The pay gap between men and women starts as early as college graduation, even when the field of study is the same, according to an American Association of University Women study. The pay disparity is compounded when an employer bases a job candidate's wages on that person's previous salary history, according to Norton's office.

Additionally, women are less likely than men to negotiate their salaries, and they fare worse when they do negotiate, studies have shown. A report on gender pay inequity that the Joint Economic Council released in April 2016 found that, at the current rate of change, the gender pay gap will not close until 2059

Although many employers may not intend to discriminate on the basis of gender, race or ethnicity, asking for prior salary information before offering an applicant a job can have a discriminatory effect in the workplace that begins or reinforces the wage gap, according to a news release announcing the bill.

A representative from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said the global HR organization is looking forward to reviewing the proposed legislation.

"SHRM has a long history of supporting equal pay for equal work and believes any discrimination should be addressed promptly and rectified," said Kelly Hastings, senior advisor, government relations, at SHRM. 

"While SHRM believes that employers should have the ability to ask and verify previous salary history, we do not believe that previous pay should be the sole method for setting a candidate's pay," Hastings said. "Many factors must be taken into account when setting pay for a position, such as education requirements, job tasks, the market and experience."

Massachusetts' new pay equity law prevents employers from asking job candidates about their salary history in interviews, making it the first state to enact such a law.

An amendment to New York City's Human Rights Law, introduced in August, would prohibit city employers from asking for or relying on a job candidate's salary history when making pay decisions.

And while a bill awaiting California Gov. Jerry Brown's signature—or veto—would not prohibit hiring managers from asking job candidates about their current salary, it would ban employers from using that information to justify a pay differential between men and women performing substantially similar work.

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