Fighting the wage gap is on the agenda again at the General Assembly, as a bill that would prohibit employers from asking applicants about past wages is being considered in both the Senate and the House of Delegates.
The House Economic Matters Committee heard testimony about House Bill 512 on Tuesday and didn’t have any questions for the any of the dozen people who testified both for and against the bill. The House passed similar legislation last year but did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee, which is scheduled to hear this year’s bill next week.
HB 512 would require employers with 15 or more employees to include salary information in job announcements and prohibit certain employers from seeking salary history information from prospective employers during the interview process, and when considering raises and promotions for current employees.
Women and minority groups have argued disclosing past salaries traps employees in a perpetual cycle of pay discrimination, regardless of the applicant’s qualifications.
Several women’s groups spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday afternoon while business groups including the Maryland Retailers Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, saying the damages provision is too severe.
Penalties include $1,000 for every applicant with whom the employer is not in compliance with the proposed law and a $5,000 per applicant if a second violation occurs within three years.
Del. Karen Young, D-Frederick, the bill’s sponsor, said the keeping salary history out of the hiring process does not detract from an employer’s ability to hire the best candidate.
“In most cases it’s irrelevant. Eighty-five percent of all American companies have salary ranges and even for those who don’t, they probably have budgets and those budgets define what they can pay for a position,” Young said. “It disproportionately discriminates against women and minorities who are in lower paying jobs.”
Similar legislation is gaining traction nationwide. Oregon enacted some provisions of a similar law in October, Delaware’s ban on salary history inquiries took effect in December while enforcement in Massachusetts starts this summer.
San Francisco and New York City’s laws will take effect later this year. New Orleans and Pittsburgh have a measure just for hiring for city employees.