Mayor Rahm Emanuel today signed an executive order prohibiting any city department from asking job applicants about their previous salary history. This action was taken to reaffirm the City’s commitment to gender pay equality on Equal Pay Day, the date of the year where women must work to earn equivalent pay to a man in the previous year.
“Equality in pay between men and women has been a problem in the United States for too long,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By signing this executive order, we are taking action to say that this practice has no place in our City and taking a significant step towards closing the gender pay gap.”
By prohibiting inquiries into an applicant’s wage history, the City is taking the lead on addressing the gender wage gap issue. Today, women in Illinois make up almost half of the workforce but earn 79 percent of what white men earn, and it is even worse for women of color. Since women earn on average less than men, basing wages on a worker’s previous pay only perpetuates wage inequality.
With this executive order, no city department can screen job applicants based on their wage or salary history including by requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, benefits or other compensation, satisfy minimum or maximum criteria or requesting or requiring that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary. Additionally, no city department can seek the wage or salary history, including benefits or other compensation, or any job applicant from any current or former employer.
“Mayor Emanuel’s action in signing this executive order shows Chicago is taking the lead on addressing the gender wage gap issue,” Department of Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi said. “Prohibiting City departments from asking job applicants about salary history during the hiring process eliminates the possibility of basing wages on a worker’s previous pay and continuing the cycle of wage inequality.”
This action aligns with HB4163, legislation recently introduced in the Illinois State House by Representative Anna Moeller calling for pay equity. Last fall, a similar bill to prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history passed through the Illinois General Assembly but was vetoed by Governor Rauner.
Since last year, advocates including Women Employed and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law have pushed for state legislation that would prohibit employers from asking applicants about salary history. Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago have chosen to take action where Governor Rauner has failed and hope others will follow suit.
“Women Employed applauds this important move by the City to level the playing field for working women in Chicago,” Women Employed’s President & CEO Iliana A. Mora said. “Salary offers should be based on a job’s responsibilities and the applicant's qualifications--not their previous pay. WE hopes to see more employers leading the way by voluntarily removing salary history questions from their hiring process, as we continue to advocate for a law to ensure all workers in Illinois can earn the pay they deserve.”
“Employers asking job applicants for their salary history only perpetuates wage inequality, which follows women and people of color throughout their careers and into retirement,” Wendy Pollack, Director of the Women’s Law and Policy Initiative at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, said. “I welcome Mayor Emanuel’s Executive Order, taking the lead in Illinois on ending this discriminatory practice.”
The mayor is also calling upon the City’s sister agencies to enact similar policies.