Gilman Introduces Bill To Ban Salary History Questions For City Job Applicants

Jan 10, 2017

City council will consider a bill that would ban the city from asking job applicants for salary history.
Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban the city from asking job applicants for their salary history.

Gilman said asking for salary history perpetuates wage gaps based on gender and race.

“Rather than paying someone based off either the budget, their qualifications or the job role, people use it to give a small increase in salary but still not pay someone the wage they deserve,” he said. “We’re taking the lead in the region and banning that from our job application and calling on the private sector to join us.”

A city spokesman did not know how many or which departments currently require prospective employees to submit salary history.

Last summer, Massachusetts became the first state to ban employers from requiring prospective hires to submit salary history information

New York City made the move in November, and Philadelphia City Council passed a similar bill last month. Comcast is now threatening to sue the city over the legislation if Mayor Jim Kenney signs it into law.

Advocates say that because women and people of color are typically paid less than white men, basing salary negotiations on salary history cements those inequities in place.

At Google, salary determinations are made with the help of an algorithm, and managers who make hiring decisions do not ask about salary history.

“By paying for the role, not the person, you start with a clean slate and mitigate any bias embedded within (a person’s) prior compensation,” wrote Google’s head of “people operations” Laszlo Block in an op-ed for the Washington Post last April. “In other words, you correct the pay bias that exists in society.”

According to Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations and advocacy with the American Association of University Women, declining to consider salary history makes good business sense for employers.

“Many employers work really hard to run a fair unbiased system and when they rely on prior salary history, they could be infecting their own HR system with the bad decisions of other employers,” she said.

Wage gaps based on gender and ethnicity are not cut and dry, as the AAUW found in 2012 when it compared earnings for men and women one year after college graduation. Overall, women in the survey made 82 percent of what men made. When researchers controlled for college major, hours worked and type of job, women were still shown to make around 94 percent of what men made.

A similar study by Cornell University researchers showed that women made about 92 percent of what men made.

And according to the Pew Research Center, black and Hispanic college-educated men earn about 80 percent of what white men earn.

This is compared to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics numbers more commonly cited. Looking at median wage across economic sectors, women earn about 80 percent of what men earn. In Pennsylvania, the figure is closer to 70 percent. For every ethnic and racial group, women earn less than men. Hispanic and Latino women earn about 54 percent of what white men earn.

Men of color also often earn less than white women. For example, the median wage for African American men is about 91 percent of the wage for white women.

Advocates say the difference in wages can sometimes be explained by education levels, hours worked and other factors. But they say work performed primarily by women and people of color, such as jobs in the service sector, is less valued than the work performed primarily by white men, such as engineering and technology jobs.

Gilman’s bill is slated to be discussed at City Council’s committee meeting next Wednesday.

The Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce declined to comment on this story.