To Help Close Wage Gap, de Blasio Tells Agencies to Stop Asking About Applicants’ Past Pay
NOV. 4, 2016
New York agencies will be prohibited from asking applicants about previous salaries under an executive order that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed on Friday, an effort to close the wage gap for women and minorities who work for the city.
The order, which will take effect in 30 days, will prevent city managers from questioning applicants or searching public records for information about their previous salaries or benefits packages.
These questions about past compensation — often posed to applicants on job forms and in interviews — are believed to contribute to pay disparities between female and minority workers and their male and white counterparts. Many companies set workers’ salaries based in part on their past wages, potentially locking in an unequal pay rate in perpetuity.
“Salary history based on unequal treatment then becomes the basis for the next” salary, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, said at a news conference. “We have to break that cycle.”
Only after a conditional job offer — including a salary figure — has been made will city employers be able to ask about a prospective employee’s previous compensation.
A large volume of studies and research continues to show the persistence of significant pay gaps in the work force. According to the Census Bureau, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Black men earned 73 percent and Hispanic men earned 69 percent of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015, according to Pew Research.
And though a number of factors, including education level, can affect those statistics, research has shown that the disparities persist even when these variables are controlled. A March study done by the job site Glassdoor found that when the numbers were adjusted for job title, employer and location, women earned about 5 percent less than men. According to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist, women earn less than men in many of the highest-paying jobs. Female physicians and surgeons, for example, made 71 percent of the salary of their male counterparts.
The attention to pay equity is increasingly at the fore of public debates on labor issues. In August, Massachusetts became the first state to bar employers, in both the public and private sectors, from asking about applicants’ salary histories. The federal government, too, has adopted policies intended to help it move away from setting salaries based on past income.
At least a dozen states have passed laws ensuring that employees are allowed to share information about their salaries with one another, which proponents say can help uncover disparities.
The order is part of a larger effort by Mr. de Blasio to make New York’s labor market more equitable. In August, the mayor signed a bill that required certain city offices and service centers to provide a lactation room for nursing mothers. Before that, he signed an order mandating that city agencies allow transgender people to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, as well as another that expanded parental leave to six weeks of paid time for tens of thousands of nonunionized city workers.
About 91 percent of the city’s approximately 300,000 workers are unionized and paid in accordance with collective bargaining agreements, so their salaries generally adhere to strict ranges across varying pay grade levels. But the city hopes its ban will ensure that all of its workers will be paid equally and potentially provide a model for the private sector, where wages and compensation can vary more significantly.
At the news conference on Friday, Chirlane McCray, the mayor’s wife, spoke about the recent college graduation of their daughter, Chiara.
“You would hope that in the four decades between her graduation and mine, we would have closed the wage gap,” Ms. McCray said. “But we’ve barely cut it in half.”
A version of this article appears in print on November 5, 2016, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Mayor Tells Agencies to Stop Asking About Applicants’ Past Pay.