Main Menu

New York City Bans Employers From Inquiring About the Salary History of Job Applicants

May 16, 2017

On May 4, 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a bill prohibiting New York City employers from inquiring about an applicant’s prior salary history. (See Intro No. 1253-A.) This new law will take effect on October 31, 2017.

Supporters of this new law explain that it is intended to address the gender pay gap because: (a) an individual’s prior compensation is often a benchmark for his or her starting pay with a new employer; and (b) by restricting questions regarding such compensation and reliance on such information, the law can reduce the likelihood that women will be prejudiced by prior salary levels and help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.” (See Intro. 1253-A Summary). A similar law has been passed in Massachusetts and is scheduled to take effect in July 2018.[1]

Key Provisions of This New Law:

Under this new law, it is now an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law for an employer, employment agency, or employee or agent thereof (“employer”) to inquire about the salary history of an applicant for employment by either:

•  a question or statement communicated in any manner to an applicant or his or her current or prior employer (or their current or former employees or agents) for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history; or

•  a search of publicly available records or reports for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history.

Further, the law also prohibits employers from relying on the salary history of an applicant in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process, including the negotiation of a contract.

For purposes of this law, an applicant’s “salary history” includes his or her current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation. It does not, however, include any objective measure of the applicant’s productivity such as revenue, sales, or other production reports.

Notably, this new law does not prohibit an employer from:

However, if an applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses salary history to an employer, the employer may: (1) consider such salary history in determining salary, benefits and other compensation for such applicant; and (2) verify such applicant’s salary history.

Additionally, the restrictions in this new law do not apply to:

If an employer violates the restrictions in this new law, the New York City Commission on Human Rights could impose penalties of up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton or malicious conduct. An employer could also be subject to a private civil action, where the relief awarded to a successful plaintiff could include backpay, frontpay, compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Next Steps:

Prior to October 31, 2017, New York City employers should take the following steps:

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have questions regarding this new law or the steps your company may need to take to comply with this new law’s restrictions.

[1] A similar law was also passed in Philadelphia; however, its enforcement has been temporarily stayed pending a lawsuit challenging the law.