Effective September 29, 2019, it will be illegal for an employer in Illinois to ask or use the salary history of an applicant in making employment decisions. Governor Pritzker has just signed an amendment to the Equal Pay Act which makes that practice unlawful. Was he moved by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team that is claiming unequal pay for the same work as their male counterparts? Laudable, but unlikely. Statistics show that females in Illinois earn, on average, only 79% of what males earn. As an employment law attorney that seeks to promote equal justice in all areas of employment, I applaud this move.
The Equal Pay Act has been in existence since 2003. In general, it makes it illegal to discriminatorily pay employees differently on the basis of sex or race. The new amendment which the Governor just signed puts some teeth into the law by mandating that an employer can NOT:
- Screen out job applicants based on their current or prior wage histories;
- Request or require salary history as a condition of being considered for employment or as a condition for being interviewed, or as a condition for continuing to be considered for a job, or as a condition for an offer of employment.
- Seek salary history from a current or former employer.
In addition to these prohibitions, the new law also protects employees’ rights to discuss wages and benefits with others. As a result, it is now unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for discussing wages with other employees or for the employer to require an employee to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting them from discussing wages or benefits with other employees. Since many employers have policies that say employees cant discuss wages with others, this is an area that must be revisited and changed immediately.
So, if an employer is restricted in what they can’t ask, are there any things an employer can ask? The Answer is yes. An employer may properly ask:
- An employer CAN provide information about wages and benefits for a particular position and ask the applicant if those are within the applicant’s expectations;
- An employer CAN engage in a conversation with an applicant as to the applicant’s expectations of salary or benefits without first disclosing the total compensation (salary/benefits) that come with a position;
If an applicant voluntarily discloses his/her salary history then no violation exists so long as the employer does not use that information in making a hiring decision.
While there is still time to change employment practices before the effective date of the new law, at a very minimum, all Illinois employers should immediately review their employment applications to remove any questions related to salary history. Secondly, they should cease all screening and interview questions relating to salary or wage history. Finally, any policy that an employer may have regarding a prohibition against employees openly discussing salary history need to be revised and deleted from any policy manual or practice.
The new law carries with it special damages of up to $10,000.00 per violation, injunctive relief, and my favorite, attorney’s fees!
With over 35 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at www.boznoslawoffice.com/contact-us through our website.