Providence may ban companies from requesting salary history of job applicants

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence could soon join New York City and the states of Massachusetts and California as places that prohibit employers from requesting the salary history of job applicants, a move designed to level the playing field when it comes to how much men and women are paid.

The ordinance, sponsored by Council President David Salvatore, would bar public or private companies from inquiring about an applicant’s salary or requiring them to provide their previous salary. The City Council Ordinance Committee has already approved the proposal and the full council will vote on it next week. (Ordinances require two passages from the council.)

“Women are systematically paid less for the same job as men, so relying on previous salary history just perpetuates that injustice,” Salvatore, a Democrat from Ward 14 said. “This ordinance ensures that a one-time disadvantage does not become a lifelong disadvantage, and also puts Providence at the forefront of the pay equity issue.”

Employers caught violating the salary history ban will be “liable to the individual affected for damages incurred, as well as punitive damages,” according to the ordinance.

Versions of the Providence ordinance have already taken effect in several cities and states, including New York City and California. The law in Massachusetts takes effect July 1. A bill that would ban salary history requests in all of Rhode Island was introduced by several Democratic state representatives this week.

A report released this month by recruitment firm NGS Global suggested efforts to prohibit questions about compensation history “are likely to have nationwide implications” but said it remains to be seen whether the bans will have a positive impact.

“What is certain is that employers and their recruiting partners must revamp what has been a key part of the hiring process and for determining market rate of compensation for a position,” the report states.

A previous version of this report stated the city’s Human Relations Commission will investigate complaints. That provision was removed from the ordinance.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan