Lawmakers shouldn’t compromise on keeping salary history private

SHARE Lawmakers shouldn’t compromise on keeping salary history private
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An awkward job interview question — how much did you make at your last job? — is getting banned in some parts of the country. | AP file photo

It’s a simple concept: Your current pay stub is your business when you apply for a new job.

Asking applicants for a salary history helps to perpetuate wage discrimination and the gender pay gap, given women’s long history of unequal pay.

Besides that, it’s a turnoff for job seekers across the board, who worry about killing their chances for an interview because they’re already making too much or too little. If an employer offers you a prestigious job that’s worth a big salary, they should pay you that salary regardless of past earnings. If you’re willing to take a pay cut because the job itself is more attractive, that’s a decision you should be able to freely make.

EDITORIAL

Illinois legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, got the concept last year when they passed the No Salary History Act, a bill amending the Illinois Equal Pay Act. 

But Gov. Rauner didn’t get it. He vetoed the bill. Rauner likes to talk about putting Illinois back to work, but apparently he’s OK with making it tougher for women to get a fair salary offer and easier for companies to favor applicants they can hire on the cheap.

This year, the House already has passed new legislation mirroring the 2017 bill. Its sponsors are optimistic that a Senate committee will pass the new bill soon, and that the votes are there this time around to override a Rauner veto.

A competing bill has thrown a wrench in the legislative machine, but it’s a flawed compromise.  The alternative bill, SB3100, includes a provision that the ban on asking for a salary history does not apply if “a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed the information.”

There’s no way to stop applicants from volunteering information if they think it will help them to snag a better job. But surprisingly, that might make matters worse.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2017 found that women who were asked about their salary history but refused to give the information were offered less than women who did disclose it. Men, on the other hand, got more money when they didn’t provide a salary history. Women, it seems, get punished for standing up for themselves.

The competing bill would also protect companies from lawsuits on pay inequity by allowing them to do a self-evaluation and demonstrate “progress” toward closing the pay gap. But discrimination is discrimination. Internal evaluations and progress reports only muddy the waters and delay fairness.

Legislators should pass the salary history ban and send it right back to Rauner, who is facing a tough election fight this year. Put him on the hot seat to sign legislation benefiting women and people of color, who have been historically underpaid and undervalued by companies.

As for employers, you know what a job is worth and what you can afford to pay. Be honest and make your offer based on that, rather than finagling to see how little you can get away with.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com


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