Legislation aims to close the wage gap

Gazette photo by Daniel Wells

A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, and Senator David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, would ban employers from inquiring about an applicant’s previous salary when applying or interviewing for a job.

The bill (A6707, S5233) would prevent hiring managers from utilizing this information when determining a new employee’s wages, which legislators and advocates argue is a form of discrimination against women and people of color, who historically earn less than white male colleagues.

“If we want to truly achieve pay equity, we need to make sure that employers and society in general finally values women’s work appropriately, based on their skills, their merit, and the demand of the job,” Galef said, “not gender, race, or ethnicity.”

The measure would effectively codify into law Governor Cuomo’s executive order #161 that prevents state entities from using this practice in hiring. The bill would expand this provision to 9.5 million workers across the state in both the private and public sector.

Advocates from A Better Balance, PowHER New York, and the NAACP were in attendance to announce the legislation, and hope that it will “open the doors” of economic opportunity for women, particularly women of color. In New York, it is estimated that white women make 86 cents for every dollar earned by a white male. African American women earn 66 cents, and Hispanic women take home only 56 cents. The wage gap causes New York women with full time employment to lose a combined $20 billion each year.

Under the bill, employers would not be able to request salary information from an applicant, or seek it from the applicant’s previous employer. Applicants can, however, share the information voluntarily in a negotiation process for a higher wage.

“By banning inquiry into salary history unless the employee volunteers it to support a higher wage, this legislation really aims to remove well documented biases that exist in hiring practices and salary negotiations that perpetuate gender and racial inequality,” said Dina Bakst, co-president of A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization for working families.

“This bill says something simple,” Bakst said. “Determine salary based on the value of the job, not what somebody made in the past.”