[US] Salary history enquiry ban in Cincinnati

An ordinance has been passed in Cincinnati, Ohio, banning employers from questioning job applicants about their current earnings or salary history, Mondaq reports.

Ordinance 83 - “Prohibited Salary History Inquiry and Use” - makes enquiries about current or past applicant salaries, from companies based within the city, an illegal and discriminatory practice. The provision states that companies may not rely on salary history in hiring decisions or in determining compensation, or to refuse to hire or otherwise retaliate against an applicant who refuses to provide his or her salary history. They may no longer screen applicants based on wages or benefits.

Its introduction addresses the city’s opinion that using salary history to set pay for new employees can “perpetuate existing discrimination against women in the workforce,” according to the introduction of the ordinance. The introductory remarks also cite the city’s worry that lower salaries for African American women and the effects of workplace discrimination on LGBTQ identifying employees LGBTQ could continue if new salaries are based on past rates.

There are exclusions, where employers are allowed to weigh an applicant’s past salary, including internal transfers or promotions, rehires (within five years of leaving a company), or where federal law allows salary consideration. Companies may also look at salary information in the context of a background check when verifying non-salary-related disclosures if the information will not be used to determine compensation during hiring.

The ordinance does not apply to “voluntary and unprompted” disclosures and there is no penalty or fine specified. However, applicants harmed by a violation of the provision by potential employers may sue within two years of the violation to potentially recover compensation, attorney’s fees, and costs.

The ban will reportedly begin one year from the date of the ordinance. The city council will create a Salary History Implementation Working Group (Working Group), to help Cincinnati employers understand how it will impact them. Employers are advised to review hiring practices and interview techniques. Companies may expect the Working Group’s recommendations within the coming year.