Westchester County Exec Signs Law To Strike Salary History Question

The Westchester County executive signed a measure Tuesday, on Equal Pay Day, intended to help close the gender wage gap. The county’s Board of Legislators unanimously approved the provision Monday. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is advancing similar legislation.

Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed a law that bans businesses from asking about a job seeker’s salary history in the application or during an interview.

“It’s 2018,” Borgia says. “It’s time now for everybody to be treated, every job applicant to be treated equally.”

That’s Democratic County Legislator Catherine Borgia, the bill’s primary sponsor. She says the legislation goes beyond closing the gender wage gap.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard a lot about older workers, that it really helps older workers as well because for the opposite reason of sometimes they’re getting priced out of a job market when they need a job after they’ve been let go from a higher paying job,” says Borgia. “So it really is something that just levels the playing field in a way that, I just think, it’s a much cleaner transaction between employer and prospective employee. Everyone can negotiate to the best of their ability.”

County Legislator Margaret Cunzio, a Conservative, says it is important for such a provision to be replicated elsewhere.

“It should be about fairness. It shouldn’t be about gender; it shouldn’t be about age; it shouldn’t be about ethnicity. It should be strictly about qualifications, looking for the quality of the person for the job and really looking for leveling the playing field,” Cunzio says.  “And if you’re applying for a job, you really should be viewed at, for fairness.”

In fact, Governor Cuomo Tuesday advanced legislation to prohibit all employers, public and private, who do business in New York, from asking prospective employees about their salary history and compensation. This was a chief recommendation from a state Department of Labor report entitled “Closing the Gender Wage Gap in New York State.” In New York, women earn the equivalent of 89 cents to each dollar earned by men, the narrowest wage gap of any state in the nation and higher than the national average of 80 cents. However, black or African American women are paid the equivalent of 64 cents on the dollar; and Hispanic and Latina women are paid 55 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, the Westchester legislators point to a study by the American Association of University Women in 2013, that found women get paid 6.6 percent less than men in their first jobs, and the inequity is perpetuated. Again, Cunzio.

“And I did some investigative work based on my previous career, which was in education, looking at the leadership of school districts in Westchester County. And what we found was very interesting, was that there were a lot more men in these positions, they make more money. And that includes the years of experience that they had,” says Cunzio. “And it was eye-opening to me because when you go in a lot of times for an interview, a lot of times they will ask, well, what were you making and they work from there as opposed to having an open and fair, and it’s really what we wanted, was an open and fair playing field, for someone to be able to interview and hired based on their qualifications, not based on pigeonholed, excuse me, on their gender and saying oh well, because it’s a male or female, we can offer x number or y number of dollars.”

Catherine Borgia:

“Women start out their careers being paid a little bit less than men. And if every salary is based on the salary that came before, obviously that gap is going to grow exponentially for women and people of color,” Borgia says. “So, it’s an economic move. It helps everyone. It helps all of Westchester families.”

On Monday, Latimer signed an executive order that prohibits the county from inquiring about past convictions during the initial application process. Latimer signed the “Fair Chance to Work” executive order at the Ossining headquarters of Hudson Link for Higher Education, an organization that provides college education, life skills and re-entry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women. Borgia plans to introduce legislation to expand this order to all employees in Westchester, not just the county.

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