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Kansas City – The Latest Ban on Salary History Inquiries

On May 23, 2019, the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri passed an ordinance intended to close the salary gap between males and females.

If you’re asking yourselves “why Kansas City?” the ordinance reports the city had a gender pay gap of 21.7 percent in 2018. The ordinance reports the national average gap is approximately 20 percent, although Pew Research Center estimated the 2018 national average was as low as 15 percent.  Also apparently pushing the city to pass the ordinance is the statistic that women of color are known to experience an even wider pay gap.

The ordinance generally prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s pay history. “Inquire” is broadly defined and goes well beyond a direct question to the applicant: 

Inquire means to communicate any question or statement to an applicant, an applicant’s current or prior employers, or a current or former employee or agent of the applicant’s current or prior employer, in writing or otherwise, for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history, or to conduct a search of publicly available records or reports for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s salary history.

The ordinance also prohibits:

  • Screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages, benefits, or other compensation, or salary histories, including requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, benefits, other compensation or salary history satisfy minimum or maximum criteria;
  • Relying on the salary history of an applicant in deciding whether to offer employment to an applicant, or in determining the salary, benefits, or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process, including the negotiation of an employment contract; and
  • Refusing to hire or otherwise disfavor, injure or retaliate against an applicant for not disclosing his or her salary history to an employer.

The ordinance does not, however prohibit an employer from informing the applicant in writing or otherwise about the position’s proposed or anticipated salary or salary range. The ordinance will take effect on October 31, 2019, and will apply to Kansas City employers with six or more employees.

The “Equal Pay” movement has been sweeping the country at record speed.  To date, 17 states have some version of a salary history ban on the books.  Fifteen cities and municipalities, including Kansas City, have also passed local ordinances of their own. Despite this nationwide push, Michigan and Wisconsin have both passed legislation prohibiting localities from passing ordinances like the one Kansas City passed.  While controversial, Michigan and Wisconsin claim the purpose of the prohibition is to limit the sheer number of laws employers need to consider when hiring.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area in any of the states where we are licensed, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.

Additionally, if this article generated any additional questions for you, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com.  We may address your question in a future blog post.