New York Passes Salary History Inquiry and Equal Pay Legislation

Jul 29, 2019
| David Pearson
NY Salary History Ban and Equal Pay Laws

The last several years has seen New York state pass several notable employment legislation, including laws on workplace sexual harassment, paid family leave, and increased minimum wage.

For employers, changing laws mean new regulations that must be followed and met in order to remain compliant and avoid potential penalties.

And new legislation recently passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo will have further impacts for employers and employees in the state of New York.

New York Bans Salary History Inquiries

In late June, New York lawmakers passed Senate Bill S6549, which prohibits employers from seeking salary history from job applicants or employees as a condition of:
  • Obtaining an interview
  • An employment offer
  • Continued employment
  • Promotion consideration

The new law will also prevent employers from using a candidate’s pay history when determining current salary and requesting salary information from a candidate’s former employer(s).

It’s important to note that there are two exceptions to New York’s salary history ban. Employees can voluntarily, without prompting from their employer, disclose past salary information so they can negotiate pay.

The second exception is that employers are able to verify salary history when compensation is offered if the applicant/employee voluntarily provides their prior salary history to obtain higher wages.

The law states that it does not supersede federal, state, or local laws related to salary history inquiries that were enacted prior to the effective date of the New York law.

New York City has had their own salary history ban on the books since late 2017, along with Suffolk County, Westchester County (which will become void upon the enacting of the state law), and Albany County.

The New York salary inquiry ban legislation will take effect on January 6, 2020.

Expanding Pay Equality in New York

In addition to the salary history inquiry ban, New York lawmakers and Governor Cuomo also passed Senate Bill S5248B. This law expands the state’s current equal pay legislation and takes effect on October 8, 2019.

In particular, the new bill requires equal pay for "substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under substantially similar working conditions."

The new law also prohibits pay differences based on more than just sex (which is what is prohibited currently), and includes:
  • Age
  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Military status
  • Disability
  • Predisposing genetic characteristics
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Domestic violence victim status

Under the law, employees who file a discrimination claim against an employer can seek liquated damages up to 300% of unpaid wages. The New York Department of Labor can also assess penalties of up to $500 per violation.

New York Employers Must Take Actions and Be Prepared for These New Laws

Employers do not have much time before both salary history inquiry and pay equality laws take effect. In order to remain compliant and avoid potential penalties, business owners and leaders should reach out to HR and compliance experts, who can help employers be prepared.

It’s also recommended to stay as up-to-date as possible with all state and local employment law news to ensure that employers are aware of any developing bills and legislation.

One area of HR is becoming increasingly more difficult for small employers to properly handle — maintaining compliance with employment laws. Download our eBook, Guide to Employment Law: Topics Employers Must Know to Stay Compliant, to learn more about some of the biggest trends and topics in employment law.

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