On November 20, 2018, the Suffolk County Legislature passed the Restrict Information Regarding Salary and Earnings Act (“RISE” Act) by a vote of 17-0. As stated in the RISE Act’s legislative intent section, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) issued a report in April 2018 which found that women in Suffolk County earn 78.1% of what their male counterparts earn, compared to the State-wide percentage of 86.8%. Since employers often use salary history to determine a prospective employee’s wages or salary, an applicant’s prior salary can thus perpetuate the inequitable pay scale that women face with each successive job. The RISE Act aims to close the pay gap between men and women by restricting employer’s access to a potential employee’s salary history.
Effective June 30, 2019, employers with four (4) or more employees in Suffolk County may not:
Inquire, in any form of application or otherwise, about a job applicant’s wage or salary history, including but not limited to, compensation and benefits.
Rely on the salary history of an applicant for employment in determining the wage or salary amount for such applicant at any state in the employment process including the offer or contract.
Suffolk County employers should note that the RISE Act expressly excludes any actions taken that are (1) pursuant to any federal, state or local law which requires the verification or disclosure of an applicant’s salary for employment purposes, or (2) pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
Importantly, current or prospective employees are permitted to file complaints for violations of this new law with the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. Violations under the RISE Act may result in an award of compensatory damages to the individual, payment to the County general fund, and civil fines and penalties in an amount not to exceed $50,000 ($100,000 if the violation is found to be willful, wanton or malicious).
Suffolk County employers and employee agencies must now take proactive measures to ensure their pre-employment practices comply with this new legislation. This means employers should instruct hiring managers not to engage in any discussion involving an applicant’s compensation history during the interviewing process. Additionally, employers should review all job application forms to determine that their hiring practices do not require applicants to submit any information regarding their salary history. Employers should also verify that their procedures to check references of job applicants do not result in obtaining an applicant’s salary history.
As more local New York jurisdictions pass such laws banning salary history, employers must continue to review and update their hiring processes, including employment applications, hiring documents, and interview notes to ensure compliance with the law.