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Bill de Blasio bans inquiries about salary history

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Nov. 4, 2016, banned municipal agencies from asking job applicants fora salary histories, in an effort to help woman and ethnic minorities earn comparable wages to white men. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday banned municipal agencies from asking job applicants for salary histories, in an effort to help women and ethnic minorities earn wages comparable to those of white men.

Under Executive Order 21, which de Blasio signed just after noon in the City Hall rotunda and which takes effect in 30 days, agencies must not make the pay inquiry until after they have offered the applicant the job.

“Salary history that’s based on unequal treatment then becomes the basis for the next salary, the next salary, the next salary, and it never ends. And we have to break that cycle. And we have to weed out the past, start afresh,” de Blasio said, with his wife, Chirlane McCray, at his side.

The order does not prohibit salary negotiation, de Blasio said.

Backers of the order invoked an oft-cited statistic based on the United States Census: that female workers make only about 79 percent of what male counterparts are paid. A Cornell University study in January said the pay gap shrinks to about 92 percent when other variables are accounted for, such as career choices and decisions to take time off for motherhood and other family matters.

De Blasio’s office said pay disparity is worst for black and Hispanic women.

The executive order will have a more direct impact on the 10 percent of the city’s 350,000-member workforce that is not unionized and whose salaries are not determined by collective bargaining.

A bill sponsored by city Public Advocate Tish James would go farther than de Blasio’s executive order by banning all city employers, public and private, from inquiring about salary history. De Blasio said Friday that he supports the bill.

A study in April by James’ office found that the pay gap for the city’s municipal workers is three times larger for women than in the for-profit sector.

“In government, unfortunately, it’s one of the worst offenders,” James said.

A law signed in Massachusetts in August prohibited all employers from asking the salary question. Hiring managers must state a pay figure up front.

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