The Ingenious Way New York City is Fighting the Gender Wage Gap

April 7th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

New York City lawmakers came up with a creative, but simple way to fight the gender wage gap. On Wednesday, the City Council banned employers from asking about job candidates' salary or wage history from previous jobs when hiring.

The idea is that once a woman is underpaid for her work, her salary history could contribute to ensuring that she continues to make less than men.

“The wage gap in this city is cheating women out of $5.8 billion each year,” Letitia James, the public advocate who acts as a watchdog for New York City's citizens, said. “Asking for their previous salary information only perpetuates that discrimination. Being underpaid once should not condemn anyone to a lifetime of inequality.”

The Commission on Human Rights will be in charge of enforcing the new legislation, and employers that violate the policy could face fines from $125 to $250,000, according to AMNewYork.

The ban only applies to new employees, and it excludes public workers whose pay can be determined by collective bargaining agreements. Women in New York state make 89 percent of what men make, according to an analysis by the National Partnership for Women and families released on Monday.

New York City lawmakers aren't the first to tackle wage discrimination through pay history.

In January, Philadelphia became the first city to ban employers from asking for pay history.

In August 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to ban the question, and the law requires employers to state the pay up front based on their worth to the company.

“I think very few businesses consciously discriminate, but they need to become aware of it,” Massachusetts Sen. Pat Jehlen told The New York Times in 2016. “These are things that don’t just affect one job; it keeps women’s wages down over their entire lifetime.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill AB 1676 into law in September, which prevents employers from solely using pay history to determine an employee's pay, and that history cannot be used to justify a gap in pay between men and women for the same position.

“I applaud the Governor for supporting Assembly Bill 1676, an important bill that will help close the gender wage gap in California,” California lawmaker Nora Campos, reportedly said when it was passed. “When employers rely on prior salaries to set wages, they are often perpetuating unfair wage disparities in the job market, particularly for women and people of color.”

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