What New York City’s New Ban on Salary History Inquiries Means for Employers

On October 31, 2017, a new law will go into effect in New York City, restricting employers from asking applicants about their salary history during the hiring process, aimed at narrowing the gender and minority pay gap as a result of an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law. Last year, Massachusetts enacted the first statewide ban on salary history inquiries, Philadelphia became the first city to do so, and Puerto Rico, Delaware and Oregon have also included similar bans as part of recently enacted equal pay laws; however, none of these laws have yet to become effective, so New York City will be a testing ground for how these laws will be applied.

Under New York City Human Rights Law, it will be an unlawful discriminatory employment practice for an employer with four or more employees or an employment agency to:


  • Inquire about an applicant’s current or prior wage, benefits or other compensation history. “To inquire” means to communicate any question or statement to an applicant, an applicant’s current or prior employer, or a current or former employee or agent of the applicant’s current or prior employer, in writing or otherwise for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history, or to conduct a search of publicly available records or reports for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history.
  • Rely on an applicant’s salary history in determining salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process, including the negotiation of a contract.

The law also states that if an applicant’s salary history is provided to an employer in a background check, the employer cannot use that salary history “in the hiring process, including the negotiation of a contract.” There are certain limited exceptions such as the internal transfer or promotion of a current employee.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights is charged with enforcing the law and there is a civil penalty of up to $125,000 for an unintentional violation, and up to $250,000 for a “willful, wanton or malicious act.” An individual can also initiate a civil lawsuit for violations and seek additional remedies such as back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

“New York has taken another step forward in its…

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