CITY HALL—City agencies will no longer be able to ask job applicants about their salary history, under a new executive order designed to close the pay gap faced by women and people of color.
The measure — signed Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio — would "disrupt the cycle" of lower salaries being paid to women and people of color by not totally basing pay negotiations on previous pay levels that may have been based on inequality.
"The unfairness we are talking about here has been baked into our economy," said the mayor.
Under the order, which takes effect in 30 days, city agencies cannot inquire about salary prior to making a conditional offer of employment either by asking the prospective employee or searching public records. That also incudes asking about benefits and other compensation.
City agencies will be allowed to ask about salary only after making an offer for employment that includes salary. The salary information should only be used to evaluate a potential employee's representations about their previous job such as their level of responsibility.
In New York City, women continue to earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to the pay of men, an average gap of $10,470.
The problem is even more pronounced among people of color. Black women earn 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men while Latina women make 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men, according to data from the federal government.
Black men earn 73 percent of the amount white men make in hourly wages while Latino men earn 69 percent. That means the average hourly wages for black men and Latino men is $15 and $14 respectively, compared with $21 for white men, according to the Pew Research Center.
"When I first met Bill he was making more than I was, and I was 6 years older, and he's still making more than me," said first lady Chirlane McCray who described her own experiences with salary discrimination.
The scope of the mayor's executive order is limited. Approximately 90 percent of the city's workforce is covered under union contracts which have defined pay scales. But the measure will affect tens of thousands of other city jobs which will set the tone for the private sector, said de Blasio.
The order will cost several million dollars initially and will grow, but it is a necessary cost to fight discrimination, said de Blasio who ran on a platform of battling inequality.
Public Advocate Letitia James, in August, introduced a law that would require all employers in the city's public and private sector to not ask about pay history.
The legislation is still in City Council committee even though it has at least 30 sponsors.
"Inequality for any of us is harmful for all of us," said James, who said she still plans to pursue the legislation.
The mayor says he supports James' bill but "we're not there yet," when it comes to the passage of the legislation in the City Council.
Asked why he hadn't waited for James' bill to pass and whether he planned to help it pass the council, the mayor cited the complicated legislative process.
"The simple answer for us is we can do this right now," said de Blasio. "Why wait?"
Rep. Carolyn Maloney praised the order and said she plans to introduce similar legislation into the U.S. Congress.
But the ultimate solution is a modification of the Equal Rights Amendment to include salary, something Maloney has introduced in numerous sessions.
"We are one step closer to pay equity," said Maloney who added that the issue boiled down to "plain fairness."