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Bill Prohibiting Employers from Making Inquiries into Applicants’ Wage and Salary History Introduced in Rhode Island General Assembly

On April 13, 2017, Representatives Perez (D-Dist. 13 Providence-Johnston), McKiernan (D-Dist. 7 Providence), Almeida (D-Dist. 12 Providence), Williams (D-Dist. 9 Providence), and Slater (D-Dist. 10 Providence) introduced legislation in the Rhode Island House of Representatives that would, if enacted into law, prohibit a prospective employer from inquiring about a prospective employee’s wage and salary history.  Specifically, the legislation makes it illegal “[f]or any prospective employer to inquire about a prospective employee’s wage and salary history before an offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee unless a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information.”

The bill is 2017-H 6111 and has been submitted to the House Labor Committee, which held a hearing on April 27, 2017 and recommended the measure be held for further study.

If the bill were to pass, Rhode Island would follow a growing number of cities and states which have prohibited prospective employers from inquiring about wage and salary history information as part of the hiring process.

Earlier this year, the New York City Council amended the New York City Human Rights Law when it added a provision making it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for an employer to inquire about the applicant’s salary history from either the applicant, the applicant’s current employer, the applicant’s former employer, or a current or former agent of the applicant’s current or prior employer.  This law even makes it illegal for an employer to search for information relating to the applicant’s salary history from publicly available information.

Likewise, the City of Philadelphia earlier this year passed a similar law.  On April 9, 2017, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia filed a suit in federal court challenging this law and seeking an injunction, which was granted.  The suit alleges that the Philadelphia law deprives businesses of their First Amendment Rights.

In 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law prohibiting employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s wage and salary history.  The Massachusetts law also requires employers to state the compensation for a vacant position at the beginning of the hiring process.  The Massachusetts law will go into effect in 2018.

Although it appears that the Rhode Island Bill will not become law this year, look for similar legislation to be introduced in the future by Rhode Island legislatures as a means to address the gender wage gap, which its sponsors have cited as the main reason for the legislation.


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Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

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