New York bans salary histories for all government agencies

“State government must lead by example and ensure equal pay for all New Yorkers.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) delivering a State of the State address on Monday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Drew
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) delivering a State of the State address on Monday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Drew

When applicants apply for a job with the New York State government, they will no longer have to worry about handing over a salary history.

As part of a slate of proposals in his State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he is issuing an executive order that bans state entities from asking applicants for their salary histories or from evaluating candidates based on what they were paid in the past. Prospective employees can only be asked to provide the information after getting a job offer with compensation.

“As companies tend to base salary offers on a candidate’s prior salary history, this measure will break the cycle of unfair compensation so that individuals, primarily women and minorities, are not disadvantaged throughout the course of their entire career,” the announcement reads.

Research bears out the fact that women and people of color are paid less than their white male counterparts, a wage gap that emerges early on. Women are paid less than than their male peers fresh out of college as they start their careers, and continue to be paid less no matter what occupation they choose or if they get higher degrees.

People of color similarly make less, even when they get more education. Women of color experience the largest wage gaps.

By basing pay at a new job on what a woman or person of color made previously, proponents of laws that ban salary histories argue that any discrimination that’s been baked in continue to follow workers around. At the same time, they argue that prior salary has little bearing on evaluating the merit of job candidates.

“State government must lead by example and ensure equal pay for all New Yorkers,” the governor’s announcement states.

Cuomo is not the first to target salary histories as a culprit in pay discrimination. In August, Massachusetts became the first state to ban all employers from relying on salary histories in the hiring process. Closer to home, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) directed city agencies in November not to ask for salary histories in the hiring process, while the city’s Public Advocate Letitia James is working on legislation that would extend the policy to all employers in the city.

Cuomo also announced this week that he is issuing an executive order that will require government contractors to report diversity and pay data “to drive transparency and progress toward wage equity.”

His announcements come after New York lawmakers passed a package of bills aimed at closing the gender wage gap in 2015. Those laws prohibited employers from banning or discouraging workers from discussing pay at work and strengthened protections against pay discrimination. But women in the state still make 89 percent of what men make.