Ban on Employer Inquiries Regarding Previous Compensation

Dana Wazny | January 16th, 2020


As New York becomes the most recent state to prohibit potential employers from inquiring about previous wage or salary information of an applicant or employee, it joins many other states and city governments that have already passed similar legislation banning pay history inquiries. Other states that currently prohibit questions about prior pay history include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.

The New York labor law (§194-A) expands an existing law that already protects against gender-based pay inequities by mandating equal pay for “substantially similar work” and by prohibiting wage differentials that are based on membership in a protected class such as age, race, disability, sexual orientation, or domestic violence victim status. The new law does not require evidence of equal work if an individual is claiming wage or salary discrimination based on protected class membership. Guidance for the New York law defines salary history information as including both compensation and benefits. It should be noted that this law applies to any job based in New York state, regardless of where the employer is based.

The intent of these pay history laws is to help combat salary inequality and prevent race and gender discrimination. Statistics indicate that women are still earning 79 cents for every dollar earned by men who are performing similar work. This number is even lower for women of different ethnicities. Prohibiting employers from inquiring into prior salary information should help close the wage gap by preventing the perpetuation of lower salaries from job to job.

Cadient Talent removed all questions related to prior wages or salaries from the baseline employment application template in April 2017 when the initial legislation was passed to ban pay history inquiries.  We encourage all clients, regardless of whether they operate in a jurisdiction that prohibits employment-related questions about compensation history, to consider removing any custom questions of this nature due to the proliferation of these laws.

Please refer to your attorney for legal advice and more information about how this may impact your organization.

Dana Wazny

Legal Analyst, Product Compliance