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Mayor de Blasio Signs Bill Prohibiting All NYC Employers From Inquiring About Salary History of Job Applicants

May 4, 2017

City takes major step toward achieving pay equity for women and people of color

NEW YORK—In a milestone achievement in the fight for pay equity, Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed Intro. 1253 prohibiting all employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s salary history. Sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, this bill expands upon the Mayor’s Executive Order 21 signed in November 2016 to include both private and public employers. The Mayor was joined by senior Administration officials, elected officials and advocates. 

“It is unacceptable that we’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work. The simple fact is that women and people of color are frequently paid less for the same work as their white, male counterparts, said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This Administration has taken bold steps to combat the forces of inequality that hold people back, and this bill builds upon the progress we have made to close the pay gap and ensure everyone is treated with the respect they deserve.”

First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray said, "Intro. 1253 is vital to ensure that prospective job applicants have a fair and just hiring process in NYC, and ensure that their work is appropriately valued in the future. NYC is abolishing a practice that subjects people, especially women and individuals of color, to discriminatory procedures before they are hired. This legislation will encourage mindful, open dialogue between employers and job applicants to negotiate an honest salary, compensation and realistic job expectations."

“When employees are freed from disclosing or relying on salary history to determine their future pay, they are better able to negotiate a fair salary and prevent underpayment throughout their professional life – a consequence that disproportionately impacts women and communities of color. Through this legislation, the City is taking action to help break the cycle of pay inequity locally and nationally and making significant progress towards workplace and gender equality,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We are proud to be one of the first American jurisdictions to take this step. I want to thank Mayor De Blasio for signing Intro. 1253 into law and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on the Council to ensure that all working New Yorkers, regardless of their industry or work history, can have economic justice.”

Public Advocate Letitia James said, “This law is a major step toward achieving pay equity, particularity for women. By prohibiting employers from asking about salary history during the hiring process, we will ensure that being underpaid once does not condemn anyone to a lifetime of inequity. I'm grateful to Mayor de Blasio and members of the City Council as well as advocates and leaders across the country for supporting this historic initiative. Together, we will keep up the fight for fairness and make 'equal pay for equal work' a reality.”

By restricting questions regarding an applicant’s previous compensation – which is often used as a benchmark from which to determine starting pay in a new position – employers take a vital step to stop perpetuating a cycle of suppressed wages for women and people of color within their workforce.

Intro. 1253, which goes into effect in 180 days, dictates that it is an unlawful, discriminatory practice for an employer to inquire about or rely upon the salary history of a job applicant to determine their salary amount during the hiring process, including the negotiation of a contract. An applicant’s salary history includes current or prior wage, salary, benefits or other compensation. The bill allows employers to discuss with job applicants their expectations about salary, benefits and other compensation. If an applicant, voluntarily and without prompting, discloses salary history to an employer, the employer may consider salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for such applicant, and may verify that salary history.

Individuals can file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which has the ability to fine employers with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the law, and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. The Commission will also create educational materials on this protection and conduct community outreach to ensure that NYC workers’ know their rights.

“Inquiring about pay history during the hiring process often creates a cycle of inequity and discrimination in the workplace, which perpetuates lower salaries for women and people of color,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis.  “By taking salary history information out of the job interview and application process, employers and job applicants can engage in robust salary negotiations focused on the applicant’s qualifications and the requirements for the job. The Commission is committed to aggressively enforce the law when it becomes effective later this year and encourages New Yorkers to come forward and seek help if they have been the victims of discrimination.”

“Intro. 1253 is an important step toward closing the gender wage gap in NYC,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “DCA is committed to protecting and enhancing the economic lives of all New Yorkers. A key part of accomplishing this is ensuring that all workers are given equal opportunities in seeking employment. By prohibiting employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history we level the playing field for all applicants.”

“The City of New York is proud to lead by example in the fight for equal pay. This legislation is one more example of how Mayor de Blasio has fought consistently for equity and equality for all New Yorkers,” said Paul Rodríguez, Acting Counsel to the Mayor.

Lilly Ledbetter said, “A lot of the large corporations and politicians like to claim the gender pay gap is a myth. Well I know from personal experience that it's not a myth, it’s the math that tells us women are earning less. But today, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Advocate Tish James paved the way for us to change this. As a champion for pay equity, I salute them for ensuring that women and minorities in New York City get the pay they deserve.”

Women in New York City continue to earn less than men and are more likely to live in poverty. The income gaps are widest among women of color, older women, immigrants, and women without a high school degree. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the mean income for women in New York City was equivalent to just 80 percent of what men earned, a gap of $10,470. The report also showed that across the United States, women employed full-time lose a combined total of more than $840 billion each year due to the wage gap. Reports on the gender wage gap vary slightly across the board, but according to 2015 U.S Census Bureau data, women earn approximately 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The problem is even more evident for women of color, compared to what white males make: Black women make 64 cents to every white male dollar, while Latina women make 54 cents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Black and Latino men across the United States also earn less on average than their white male counterparts. According to the Pew Research Institute, in 2015, black men earned 73 percent of white men’s hourly earnings, while Hispanic men earned 69 percent. This translates to average hourly wages for black and Hispanic men of $15 and $14, respectively, compared with $21 for white men. 

For the first time, under the de Blasio Administration, women and people of color now hold more than half – approximately 52 percent – of managerial positions in City government. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ data also show that the majority of City government employees are people of color, representing approximately 61 percent of the total workforce. 

The de Blasio Administration has made meaningful changes to improve the lives of the City’s diverse workforce, including:

  • Signing Executive Order 21, which prohibits City agencies from inquiring about the salary history of job applicants.
  • Providing six weeks of paid time off for maternity, paternity, adoption, and foster care leave, at 100 percent of salary – or up to 12 weeks total when combined with existing leave.
  • Requiring that employers with five or more employees provide Paid Sick Leave.
  • Supporting legislation that will allow Paid Sick Leave to be used for purposes of Paid Safe Leave. This amendment will ensure victims, survivors and those who are impacted by domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault offenses are able to take necessary time to rebuild their lives and seek safety while not sacrificing their paychecks or jobs.
  • Requiring employers with 20 or more employees to provide a pre-tax commuter benefits program.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour for all City government employees and employees who provide contracted work for the City at social service organizations.
  • Settling contracts with 99 percent of the municipal workforce, compared to zero when Mayor de Blasio took office – bringing salaries for female-dominated fields like teaching and healthcare in line with salary increases previously given to other municipal workers, and providing all City employees with new 7-year contracts that included 10 percent in raises. 
  • Implementing the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, including the right to a written contract, the right to be paid timely and in full, and right to be free from retaliation?
  •  Providing Universal Pre-K for All, which has made it possible for thousands of parents to earn a living without sacrificing their children’s early education.
  • Signing into law of legislations enforced by the City’s Human Rights Commission to prohibit employers to make inquiries into credit history and into criminal history of job applicants until after a conditional offer of employment is made. The Commission has run extensive outreach on these protections as well as conducted training targeting employers and employees citywide.
  • Issuing legal enforcement guidance to clarify how the New York City Human Rights Law provides protections for individuals from discrimination based on pregnancy and gender identity and expression. 
  • Creating more family-friendly workplaces, including the creation of lactation rooms for new mothers at social service agencies across the city. 
  • Creating the first-ever Commission on Gender Equity to leverage the power of City government to expand and increase opportunity for all New Yorkers regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.
  • Establishing the Office of Labor Policy and Standards at the Department of Consumer Affairs as the focal point for labor issues and workers in New York City. DCA’s OLPS enforces key municipal workplace laws, conducts original research, and develops policies that are responsive to an evolving economy and issues affecting workers in New York City, particularly people of color, women, and immigrants.
  • Establishing of the OLPS’ Paid Care Division, which is dedicated to defending the rights of paid care workers, improving the quality of paid care jobs, and strengthening the paid care system through outreach, education, complaint intake and referral, and research and policy development on worker demographics, working conditions, and industry standards.
  • Adding caregiver protections under the New York City Human Rights Law to ensure people providing care to children under the age of 18 and those caring for parents, sibling, spouse, children of any age, grandparent, or grandchild with a disability are protected from employment discrimination, such as being terminated, demoted or denied a promotion because of their status or perceived status as a caregiver. 

“Women represent half of our city’s population and workforce; and yet we have been shortchanged by the very economic system that would not flourish without our contributions. As chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, I am proud to have worked with Public Advocate Letitia James as a co-sponsor on this legislation that would help close the gender wage gap by ending wage discrimination in New York City through the salary history ban. Debt, poverty, and homelessness are the realities faced by women living paycheck to paycheck - unable to meet the inflated cost of living in this city. Women can no longer afford to be nickeled and dimed; it is time to level the paying field,” said Councilmember Laurie A. Cumbo.   

“The fact that women in New York City earn over five billion dollars less than men every year not only hurts women and families, but our entire economy. By stopping prospective employers from asking about wage history, this important bill helps to ensure that wage discrimination at a previous job is not perpetuated. Thanks to this legislation, companies will have to pay an employee based on their experience and merits, and we are one step closer to breaking the cycle of gender-based underpayment,” said Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

“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 Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I sponsored our ‘Ban the Box’ law because it was clear that people with criminal records weren’t getting fair consideration when applying for jobs, and I support this new law because when wage discrimination is the reality, relying on salary history helps perpetuate it. Thank you to the Public Advocate, the Council, and Mayor de Blasio for making New York City a leader on this issue.”

“It’s time to end the gender pay gap.  Gender discrimination in compensation and the practices that lead to it occur far too often and contribute to the impoverishment of women and families.  Intro 1253 will help to end discrimination against women and takes a great step in breaking the cycle of pay inequity based on gender,” said Councilmember Fernando Cabrera.

“All New Yorkers should have equal access to the tools they need to support their families and thrive in our city,” said Councilmember Rafael Espinal. “I am proud NYC is taking steps to close the wage gap and codify gender equity by passing progressive laws. Congratulations to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James on this major legislation!”

“Getting equal pay for equal work should not be an issue New York City residents are still battling in 2017,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos. “What someone earned at a previous job should have no bearing on salary negotiations with a potential employer. Introduction 1253 will help close the wage gap between women and men as well as minorities and whites. Thank you to Public Advocate James for her leadership on this issue that is so central to making our City more equitable. Thank you also to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito for supporting this groundbreaking legislation.” 

“I applaud Public Advocate James, my colleagues in the City Council and Mayor De Blasio for bringing this bill into fruition. This is another tool in the toolbox to end discrimination and pay disparity throughout our city. It also speaks to economics by banning the process of looking at someone’s pay history that may be significantly outdated for various reasons, particularly if the applicant has been out of the workforce for a while caring for family members . It forces employers to become transparent and post a salary based on the value of the position,” said Councilmember Andy King.

“This important legislation will help close the wage gap in New York City once and for all. Workers should not face the prospect of a being underpaid their entire lives solely because of one underpaid position,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman.

“The signing into law of Intro 1253 is yet another step toward remedying the wage gap in our city. As a woman, and as a minority, I am all too familiar with how disclosing salary history can have a detrimental impact on future earnings. I believe this legislation will be an important component in dismantling a system that perpetuates inequities in compensation. People should be paid based on what the market will bear, and not according to their salary history,” said Councilmember Annabel Palma.

Councilmember Steve Levin said, “Every New Yorker should have equal opportunity to earn fair wages and it's critical to stop the cycle of underpayment for women and underrepresented minorities as they climb the job ladder. I commend the Public Advocate for her dedication to fighting to close the wage gap and rededicate myself to finding innovative ways to promote gender and racial equity throughout our city.”

Councilmember Debi Rose said, “We cannot end the tale of two cities without addressing the gender pay gap. This new law gives us tools to combat pay inequity by banning all employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s prior salary and using it to set future wages. If a woman or person of color starts his or her career with a pay gap, each new employer asking for salary history makes it more likely that the pay gap will follow the employee throughout his or her life. What should matter most to an employer is what a position is worth to their organization and the candidate’s qualifications – not what a person made in his or her last job. I thank Public Advocate Letitia James for introducing this legislation and Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing this bill into law.”

“The gender wage gap should not exist in 2017. This legislation will help counter the inequity women face throughout their careers when the salary bumps they receive at new jobs are based on figures that are already lower than what their male peers make. Women should receive equal pay for equal work - and no one should be anchored to lower pay because of institutional discrimination,” said Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democratic Leader.

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Today’s bill signing represents one more positive step towards dismantling the structures that perpetuate unequal pay. I applaud New York City for taking action on pay equity. The facts should alarm anyone concerned with social justice. The inequities that yield Hispanic women earning 46 cents on the dollar compared to white men, and similarly disturbing disparities for white, Asian, and black women, deserve urgent action. This move against salary history’s widespread use helps break a practice that can compound unequal treatment as a worker moves from one job to another. Thanks Mayor De Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, and everyone who participated in making this important step forward for New York workers.”

“Salary histories perpetuate a prejudiced system that disadvantages women and minorities with lower salaries and fewer promotions. This does little to close the wage gap in New York, where women make just 87 cents for every dollar made by men. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Public Advocate James for taking an important step to level the playing field with this strong, forward-looking legislation to ban salary histories. I hope the State Senate will follow New York City's inspiring actions today and pass legislation to prevent wage disclosure discrimination at the state level. If we want to achieve equal pay for all New Yorkers, we must ban this discriminatory practice statewide,” said Senator Brad Hoylman.

“The wage gap between different demographics in this country is yet another way to marginalize groups of people and perpetuate inequality in our society. By banning employers from asking applicants for their salary history, New York City is instituting an innovative and elegant policy that fights against the forces of prejudice and ensures that workers are paid according to their abilities. There is no reason why employers cannot determine compensation by the title and responsibilities of a given position, and I hope to see this policy implemented more widely in New York State and across the country,” said Senator Marisol Alcantara.

Senator Liz Krueger said: “I am very pleased to see New York City taking meaningful steps to break the cycle of unequal pay. It’s great to live in a city where all our elected officials support common sense employment protections for everyone. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and the members of the City Council for putting our New York values into action.”

Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz said, “Employers should not ask job  candidates about  past salaries. That is discriminatory and unfair. It particularly hurts women and minority candidates who may have had a lower paying job in the past but are more than qualified for better and higher paying employment. New York City once again takes the lead for fair employment practices.”

“I am proud that Mayor de Blasio is signing this new pay equity bill into law. For too long, employers have held an unfair advantage by legally being allowed to inquire about prior salaries of prospective employees, holding a distinct advantage when negotiating salary and allowing them to make salary offers based on salary history instead of ability and merit. Prospective employees who had been underpaid previously, possibly as a result of unfair pay practices based on gender or race, were more likely to continue to be underpaid at their next job. This law will go a long way toward making pay equity, in both the public and private sector, a reality and will make great strides towards ending the gender pay gap,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

“Pay inequity in the workforce across New York State is alarming.  Females are underpaid in every field but represent 57.2% of the workforce.  In New York State, women earn 84 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Today, we help break the cycle of pay inequity which has been a factor in holding women back from career advancement opportunities.  The signing of this milestone legislation will ensure that salary history remains in the past with other injustices experienced by women in the workplace,” said Assemblymember Rebecca A. Seawright.   

“The gender wage gap is a persistent injustice that prevents women, and particularly women of color, from realizing their full earning potential,” said Assemblymember Pamela Harris. “That’s why I strongly support the pay equity bill that is being signed here today. By removing questions about previous salary on job applications, we can help eliminate the gender wage gap and ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.”

“This is legislation that is long overdue in the workplace, not only because of the potential discrimination with the gender wage gap, but also because it removes the disadvantage of all - men and women - who have been underpaid in the past facing continuing discrimination,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.

"Asking job candidates for their salary history allows prospective employers to continue the injustices of past employers by perpetuating the wage gap. Salaries should be based on merit and not on past salary since we know that far too many women, and especially women of color, do not get the salary they deserve. The wage gap between men and women goes against everything that we value here in New York – equality, opportunity and a fair shot at success. This bill is solid step toward addressing that inequality and I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James and the City Council for their leadership on this issue. I cosponsor a similar bill on the state level and urge it to be taken up in Albany so that New Yorkers outside of the city can also receive fairer wages," said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“Basing salary on a history of an applicant’s past wages is an unfair practice that discriminates against historically disadvantaged groups by penalizing workers for their previous socioeconomic status” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “Higher wages for women and people of color will lead to a stronger economy, more productive workforce and less poverty across our city. I am proud to stand with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James as New York takes this historic step to help reduce the wage gap.”

“Today is a historic day for New York City. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and the NYC Council, the barrier of salary history information will be removed in the march towards wage equality for women in the workplace in our great city. Prospective employers will no longer be able to ask for a woman's previous salary, which historically has perpetuated the wage gap, negatively impacting women and minorities,” said Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

Allegra L. Fishel, Founder and Executive Director, the Gender Equality Law Center, said: “We applaud Public Advocate Letitia James, the City Council and Mayor De Blasio for the introduction, passage and signing of Intro.1253 into law today.  This law prevents employers from asking job applicants about their past job histories.  We believe this restriction will play an important role in closing the gender pay gap by preventing the perpetuation of lower salaries that so many women — particularly women of color -- have historically experienced in the existing job market.”

Sherry Leiwant, President of A Better Balance, said: “Asking about salary history perpetuates wage discrimination and is one factor in the persistence of the wage gap between men and women.  It also contributes to keeping down the wages of people of color.  We are happy to see the city take this important step of outlawing use of prior salaries in setting salaries in new jobs and look forward to working with the Administration to make the law as effective as possible.”

Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York, said: “Today New York City takes a bold step in breaking the cycle of wage discrimination by prohibiting the use of salary history in hiring.  We applaud Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and the City Council for taking aim at a common place practice which perpetuates the inequitable pay too often earned by women, disabled workers, and people of color. Those lost wages, multiplied over a career with every job, negatively impact a worker's financial health and retirement security. This new law will encourage employers to base compensation on a prospective candidate’s skills, merit and demands of the job. It also demonstrates that in these challenging times, our leaders can take decisive, concrete action to promote diversity and end inequity.”

“With the rising cost in New York City, it is important that we make all the effort we can to insure fair and equal pay from employers. This is a great strive for New Yorkers who struggle to make ends meet” said Michelle Gall, Executive Director of Digital Girl Inc.

"Women's City Club of New York applauds Mayor de Blasio and Public Advocate James for taking decisive action that recognizes the importance of prohibiting questions about salary history for prospective employees. This measure will undoubtedly dismantle a longstanding practice that has held back women and people of color in the workplace, inequities that WCC has worked to remedy for more than a century. It is time that New York City send such a clear message that career opportunities will be based on qualifications and merit, and not diminished because of gender, race, and ethnicity. With the stroke of the pen, we are writing a new chapter about equality and fairness in our city's history books," said Annette Choolfaian, President of the Women's City Club of New York.

“The Center thanks Public Advocate Letitia James for sponsoring this bill to protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers from wage discrimination, and Mayor de Blasio for signaling his strong commitment to equality for all by signing it into law today,” said Glennda Testone, Executive Director at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “Our programs at The Center are specifically targeted to help marginalized LGBT New Yorkers overcome such barriers to advance their careers and access opportunities, and this law takes another step toward closing the wage gap for women, transgender community members and people of color.”

“We applaud PA James for taking this bold step and pushing for this legislation and we thank Mayor de Blasio for signing it. Asking prospective employees about pay history often intimidates job seekers in NYC, especially women, immigrants and people of color, who have had a break in employment or have had to take up menial jobs to make ends meet.  This will address the existing inequity and close the gap between a woman’s and a man’s pay and will be a step towards eliminating the discrimination women, immigrants and people of color face in countless ways," said  Robina Niaz, Executive Director of Turning Point for Women and Families.  

“I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing this historic legislation that forbids employers from inquiring about the pay history of potential employees. Speaking on behalf of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the nation’s oldest organization for Black college-trained women, this is an issue that impacts all women, not just those in New York City. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, 57 percent of women are in the work force. This legislation could have a significant impact on the earning potential in the United States, particularly for women of color. On behalf of the 290,000 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., we urge other policy makers in cities and towns throughout the nation to support progressive legislation such as this and make pay equity a reality for all wage earners,” said Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s International President.

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of Asian American Federation, said: “The Mayor’s signing of this bill introduced by Public Advocate James is an important step in bridging the gender wage gap that exists across all industries. The fact that employers will no longer be able to ask candidates about their pay history will provide needed protection to all Asian New Yorkers, who earn disproportionately less than their white counterparts, and particularly to Asian women, who experience a 37 percent wage gap relative to white men in New York City. We hope this legislation is the first of many steps to address the wage gap issue for the Asian American community, including those with limited English proficiency, whose occupational options are few and far between.”

“Muslim Community Network applauds the leadership of Public Advocate Leticia James in introducing legislation that guarantees the fairness in compensation that working New Yorkers deserve and ensures that they will be treated with dignity and respect by their employers. We thank Mayor De Blasio for enacting this legislation and are confident that New York City will set the precedent of ending wage inequality across the nation,” said Christina Tasca, Executive Director of Muslim Community Network.

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