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, which the House of Representatives approved this week in a 242-187 vote. The measure is billed by supporters as a long overdue update to the federal Equal Pay Act.
“Women and men in the same job deserve the same pay. Yet, women continue to earn 20 percent less than men, on average,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). “That is wrong, and we need to fix it. The Paycheck Fairness Act tackles this problem head on—giving working women the opportunity to fight against systemic wage discrimination and receive the pay and economic security they have earned.”
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 its own equal pay law last year, which addresses inequities between all protected classes, not just women, and contains many of the same provisions as the federal bill. One provision New Jersey’s law does not include is the prohibition on past salary inquiries.
Basing starting salaries on what a job candidate made at their previous workplace would only perpetuate the existing pay gap, the theory goes. By eliminating that factor, job candidates will get salary offers that better reflect their value to the company hiring them.