Salary history out in hiring process

Pritzker signs bill into law expected to address pay inequity between sexes

Gov. Pritzker brandishes the new bill signed into law banning employers from asking potential hires about their salary history. (Twitter/GovPritzker)

Gov. Pritzker brandishes the new bill signed into law banning employers from asking potential hires about their salary history. (Twitter/GovPritzker)

By Ted Cox

Deliberately selecting a site near the U.S. Soccer Federation, Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law Wednesday that’s expected to address pay inequity between the sexes.

Pritzker signed House Bill 834 banning employers from asking a prospective employee about his, her, or their salary history — a practice blamed for holding women’s pay down compared with men’s.

The signing ceremony was held at the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens in the historic Prairie Avenue district, a block away from the U.S. Soccer Federation, site of a recent protest calling for equal pay between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams.

“The hiring process serves one purpose and one purpose alone — finding the best person for the job at hand. It's no longer acceptable to wring quality work out of capable women at a discounted rate," Pritzker declared. "This law is about the kind of state we want to become — a state where we are not devaluing half our workforce simply because they're women.

“Less than a block from here sits the headquarters of the United States Soccer Federation,” he added, calling it “an organization that just this week defended a different kind of decision — to compensate its female players at lower rates than the men despite their substantially higher success rate — an act so questionable that the men's team itself declared the justification inequitable and unfair. Here in Illinois, we know that women get the job done. It's time to pay them accordingly.”

“In 2019, women in Illinois still make roughly 20 percent less than their male counterparts, and for women of color the disparities are even greater," said Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat who was lead sponsor in the House. "HB834 is aimed at closing that wage gap. It ends the pernicious practice of using prior wages to determine future pay and increases the penalties on companies and organizations that utilize discriminatory pay practices. After two vetoes of this bill by our previous governor, I am incredibly pleased and grateful that Gov. Pritzker is standing with the women of Illinois and signing HB834 today.”

“I don't believe that all employers consciously discriminate, but they need to become aware of this issue," added Sen. Cristina Castro, Moeller’s Elgin counterpart in the Senate and lead sponsor in that chamber of the General Assembly. "Many employers tend to set salaries for new hires using their previous salary rather than basing it off of the applicant's worth to the company. Businesses shouldn't see this new law as a threat, it is the right thing to do.”

“Income inequality is a very real problem," said Wendy Pollack, Women's Law & Policy Initiative director at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. "Women in Illinois earn on average just 79 cents to every dollar that white men earn. And for women of color, the wage gap is much worse. Black women earn just 63 cents and Latinas earn just 48 cents as compared to white men. This new law will take us a step closer to achieving income equality in Illinois.”

Basing a new salary on previous salary history only serves to sustain the wage gap between men and women, according to backers of the new law.

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has become the poster child for pay inequity, although the soccer federation has argued that’s because the shared prize pool for the women’s World Cup is substantially lower than the purse for the men’s tournament. After winning a record four women’s World Cups, the U.S. women are paid less than the men’s team, which has yet to win even one and failed to qualify for the last men’s global tournament. U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Dubin made a point of endorsing their campaign for equal pay in saluting their recent World Cup victory.