As of Wednesday, it is officially illegal for any potential employer in New York City, to ask a prospective employee to disclose their previous salary information. Passed in an overwhelming 47 to 3 vote, one day after the annual Equal-Pay-Day, this bill says that New York City job seekers will no longer have to fear how to answer the dreaded salary question in the job interview.
This is the second of two recent strides against income inequality made by Public Advocate, Letitia James. The first was made in August 2016, when James released a report that said women in New York City (nearly half of the workforce) made almost $6 billion less than their male counterparts in 2016.
While the scale of that number may come as a surprise to some, the notion that employers will often actively seek ways to pay employees less, shouldn’t really shock anybody. This has just been a pattern that the data clearly confirms. Many believed the pay gap persisted because employers were able to request previous salary information, and would then make job offers based on previous wages rather than value for the work. As pointed out by Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy at American Association of University Women (AAUW.org), “relying on salary history to set future pay assumes that prior salaries were fairly established.”
While women have long been a staple of the American workforce, conversations about equal pay for equal work have never been taken as seriously as they are now. Even as this legislation makes its way through the city council, Black women, for example, are still paid 66 cents for every dollar made by white men. The wage gap for Asian women in New York is more than double the national average.
When one further examines the backdrop of such wage inequality, the situation seems even grimmer and this legislation is only one step towards pay equity. According to a report by the New York Times, “the mean income of the lowest fifth [in NYC] was $8,993, while the highest fifth made $222,871. According to the same report, “The top 5 percent made $436,931 — about 49 times as much as those with the lowest income.” The income gap in New York City is among the highest in the country.
Hopefully, this is far from the last step towards income equality that New York City will take. As one of the largest city economies in the world, it will be interesting to see whether or not other cities take similar steps.