October 31, 2017, New York City: On the steps of City Hall, PowHer New York celebrated with First Lady Chirlane McCray, Public Advocate Letitia James, Human Rights Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis, leaders and activists the bold New York City law which ends the practice of asking prospective employees the salary history question. Click here to see factsheets for Employees and Employers.
“The salary history ban which goes into effect on Halloween is not a treat for employees or a trick for business. It is not a sugar-coated law. It is a strong, common-sense solution to the scary salary history question which perpetuates and multiples wage discrimination. Employees will no longer fear being “tricked” out of wages because they have been underpaid and undervalued from job to job. That cycle is broken today in New York City,” said Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York, a network of over 100 organizations working in collaboration to accelerate women’s economic equality.
Just days before Latina Equal Pay Day on November 2, this law is squarely aimed at the gender pay gap which undermines women’s economic security. The wage gap in New York, now 89 cents, has been shrinking for women overall, but Latinas make 56 cents to the dollar, equivalent to working 22 months to earn what the average white male earns in 12 months. Black women earn 66 cents to the dollar.
Although commonplace and routine for most employers, salary history perpetuates and multiplies discrimination from a women’s first job through her career. Lower salaries are a result of multiple causes including outright discrimination; working in a female-dominated profession where pay is lower precisely because women do the jobs and “women’s work” is devalued; reduction in hours in a prior job to care for children or other family members, for example. All penalize the applicant when employers set compensation based on prior salaries, rather than job requirements and merit.
Women and families cannot afford the gender pay gap which has life-long financial consequences. It is estimated that the average women losses between $450,000 and $1,000,000 over her career because of the gap. The ripple effects include high rates of poverty for children, and for women, approximately two-thirds being breadwinners. Not surprising, poverty during the retirement years is a growing reality, with one out of five NYC women over 65 living in poverty.
The NYC salary history ban is a concrete, common-sense step toward closing the wage and opportunity gap women continue to encounter daily. It is imperative that government continues to seek tools to address this persistent and insidious economic injustice. It takes intentional action, including innovative laws like this one, to break centuries old cultural conventions.
PowHer New York (PowHerNY) is a statewide network of individuals and over 100 organizations collaborating to accelerating economic equality for NY women. Its signature initiative, the Equal Pay Campaign, has been leading pay equity reform in New York for more than a decade. PowHer NY inspires change and catalyzes collective action through education, advocacy, convening, and social media.