New York State Just Became the Latest State to Ban Employers From Asking for Wage Histories When Hiring

Prospective employers in New York state will no longer be allowed to ask applications about their wage histories after a new law barring such questions went into effect on Monday.

State officials claim the move will help promote equal wages for men and women. Women in the state reportedly earn roughly 89 percent less than men on average, a considerably smaller gap than the U.S. overall average of 80 percent. Proponents of banning salary history questions believe that bans are needed because allowing employers to ask the question perpetuates inequality by stalling wage advancement for women.

"This law is another critical step toward reaching full gender equality and equitable pay for all," said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon in a press release. "While New York currently has the narrowest wage gap in the nation, with women earning the equivalent of 89 cents to a man's dollar, that's still an unacceptable gap."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed the law as part of his 2019 Women's Justice Agenda, which has been described as "a direct rebuke on to Washington's assault on women's rights." The agenda's stated aim is to improve reproductive, social and economic justice for women.

"New York continues to be a leader in the fight for economic justice and advancing equality for women in the workplace," said Cuomo. "The salary history ban reinforces our commitment to breaking down the barriers that have hindered women for far too long."

Cuomo previously commissioned a report to study wage inequality for women, which was issued by the state's Department of Labor in April 2018. A salary history ban was one of several policy recommendations that the study suggested could help combat gender-based income inequality.

The report found that income inequality for women is compounded by other demographic categories, such as race. Although men in general made considerably more than women, white men were the group that made the most of any demographic. Hispanic women were the group found to make the least, earning only 55 percent of what a white male made in the state.

The amount women earned versus men also varied greatly depending on the part of the state being studied. The report showed essentially no wage gap based on gender for residents of New York City. The city enacted a ban on salary history questions in 2017. The new law covers the entire state. It also bans employers from seeking past salary information from outside sources.

New York is one of 17 states to have passed legislation banning salary history questions for employment. In addition, 17 cities have also passed laws against the practice. Lawmakers in two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, have taken the opposite view and passed laws that prevent local bans on the question.

wage gap
Statistics suggest that women in the United States make only 80 percent of what a man makes on average. Getty