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NYC bans questions about salary history during job hiring process

Beginning Tuesday, it's illegal for public and private employers in the city to ask questions about an applicant's prior earnings.
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The next time you go for a job interview in New York City, don’t expect to answer any questions about what you’ve earned in the past.

A ban on job application and interview questions related to an applicant’s salary history has gone into effect in New York City on Tuesday, marking the first municipality in the nation to enforce such a law, according to the city. (However, multiple states have such a law, a Philadelphia ban was passed but then halted, and New Orleans and Pittsburgh have similar laws that only affect city employees.) 

The law, which was approved by City Council in April, aims to help close the wage gap between men and women as well as between white people and people of color.

Banning such questions will force employers to base a salary off of an employee’s qualifications and not off of their former pay, which may have been affected by bias, the law’s supporters say.

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The law will be enforced by the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which will fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 and can award unlimited compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits.

“Women and people of color deserve to be paid what they’re worth, not held back by their current or previous salary,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, in a statement. “Today’s law will enable job seekers to negotiate a fair salary based on their skills and will help break the cycle of income inequality that has been so prevalent in the workforce for so long.”

In New York City, women earn $5.8 billion less in wages than men each year, according to a report by New York City’s Public Advocate Tish James’ office. Black women here make 55 cents and Hispanic women make 45 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Nationally, in 2015, black men earned 73 percent and Hispanic men earned 69 percent of white men’s hourly earnings, according to the Pew Research Institute.

The law will apply to public and private employers, making it illegal to ask applicants questions about or prior earnings or benefits, including on job applications, ask applicants’ current or former employers about their prior earnings, search public records to learn about prior earnings, and rely on information about prior earnings to set their new compensation.