An Illinois state law banning employers from asking job candidates about their salary history went into effect this month. The law, H.B. 834, also makes it illegal for “employers to require workers to sign waivers that could prevent them from disclosing or discussing wage history, salary, or benefits with others,” and it changed some discrimination protections to say employers cannot pay women and African Americans less for “substantially similar work.” (The language used to be “equal work.”)
Glenna Hecht, founder of Humanistic Consulting and a speaker last month at SAF Amelia Island 2019, said the state isn’t alone in implementing its new wage history law. “Many states [now] bar asking about pay history,” Hecht said.
Hecht added that the trend underscores the importance of other hiring best practices, including understanding what you as an employer can and can’t ask, and the best approaches to finding a candidate who is a good match. (Hint: It’s a good time to brush up your job descriptions to make sure they’re accurate and appealing to good candidate.)
She noted that focusing excessively or exclusively on pay can often lead to less-than-ideal results anyway. “When you advertise pay, people will self-select,” Hecht said. “Ask instead about their experience related to the role.”
Floral industry professionals in Illinois are making adjustments to the new law.
“From an administrative side, we have removed the pay history question from our applications, although many applicants left this blank anyway, and have made our managers aware not to ask,” said Stacia Bartlett, director of human resources for the Bill Doran Company, which is headquartered in Rockford, Illinois. “From my perspective, though, that historical pay data didn’t really have an impact on what an employment offer would look like.”
Former Society of American Florists president Red Kennicott, AAF, of Kennicott Brothers Company, headquartered in Chicago, likewise said the company has adapted to the new law, in part because it has experienced similar legal requirements in other parts of the country.
“We do not see this new law as a problem,” Kennicott said. “We have run into similar laws in other states, such as for prospective employees who are residents of New York. As always, we do our best to comply with all federal, state and local laws. In this case, we would ask a prospective employee his or her expectations regarding compensation, rather than salary history.”
Women’s rights groups support the law as a step toward gender pay parity, according to Crain’s Chicago, which noted that the group Women Employed has created a toolkit and question-and-answer rundown for the law. Fines for disobeying the law could run up to $10,000. Independent contractors are not included.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management