Should employers ask about salary history in job interviews? NYC says “NO!”
In an effort to combat wage inequality, New York City passed a ground-breaking bill this week that bans both public and private employers from asking job candidates about their salary history during the interview or hiring process.
On April 5, the New York City Council voted in favor of the legislation, which is projected to impact nearly 4 million potential employees and have significant consequences, advocates of the bill say, for women and minority groups in particular.
The bill was first introduced to the Council in August, 2016, by Public Advocate Letitia James who also released a report last year that found female workers in NYC earn approximately $5.8 billion less than their male counterparts, a statistic that also disproportionately affects minorities.
James is one of many who supported the bill who believe inquiring about an applicant’s salary history is “a practice that is known to perpetuate a cycle of wage discrimination” since statistically many groups – women and minorities, in particular – are often underpaid at the start of their careers. “Being underpaid once should not condemn one to a lifetime of inequity,” James said.
Lisa Maatz, VP of Government Relations and Advocacy at the American Association of Univeristy Women, agrees. “Relying on salary history to set future pay assumes that prior salaries were fairly established.” Maatz argued that an “over-reliance on salary history” assumes that the previous wages paid to that worker were always fair and balanced, regardless of factors like gender or race. “Anyone see a problem here?” said Maatz.
Dr. Sonia Banks, President of the Manhattan Chapter of the National Coalition for 100 Black Women, put it even more bluntly. Employers who ask about salary history are more likely to create a “Are you underpaid? Then let’s make sure we keep you there!” kind of dynamic for workers.
The new legislation is city-wide and therefore will impact job applicants across industries, including hospitality.
When asked how the bill might impact the hospitality hiring process in New York City, Andrew Rigie, Executive Direct of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said that many local employers are already actively addressing the issue of wage inequality and “did not express major concern with this legislation’s impact on their hiring process.” In other words, these hospitality employers that Rigie refers to don’t seem to feel that the ban on asking about salary history is a hindrance to them in any way when hiring new employees.
Other employers across multiple industries seem to agree and have expressed support for the bill.
“We need to take a long, hard look at a lot of business practices we’ve gotten used to, ask if they’re fair, and correct them if they’re not,” said Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.
According to the Washington Post, banning employers from asking job applicants about their current or past salary amounts seems to be catching on elsewhere in the US. They reported that Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and Philadelphia have all banned these types of questions from job interviews and that “more than 20 other city and state legislatures have introduced similar provisions.”