U.S. House Votes to Ban Salary Inquiries

Federal legislation taking aim at pay inequities includes a provision that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about previous salaries to stop perpetuating past pay inequities.

The provision was part of the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) which the U.S. House approved last week in a 242-187 vote. The measure is billed by supporters as a long overdue update to the federal Equal Pay Act. It had 239 cosponsors including all 12 members New Jersey’s House delegation.

The bill includes provisions that would bar employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salaries, prohibit retaliation against employees who compare wages, and require employers to demonstrate that pay discrepancies are based on legitimate factors. The legislation would also push to eliminate “barriers” that would make it more difficult for employees to file a class-action lawsuit over pay discrimination and would create a program providing training on negotiation for females.

New Jersey enacted pay equity legislation last year which addresses inequities between all protected classes, not just women, and contains many of the same provisions as the federal bill. New Jersey’s existing law does not include a prohibition on salary inquiries but separate salary inquiry prohibition measures (A1094; S559) have passed their respective houses of Legislature.

Supporters argue that basing starting salaries on what a job candidate made at their previous workplace perpetuates the existing pay gap between men and women. By eliminating that factor, job candidates will get salary offers that better reflect their value to the company hiring them.