New Kansas City Law Prohibits Employers from Asking Salary History Questions

By Sherri Bennett, SPHR & SHRM-CP on Jun 24, 2019
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New Kansas City Law Prohibits Employers from Asking Salary History Questions

Kansas City Salary History Inquiry Ban Takes Effect Halloween 2019

In a move designed to close the pay gap between men and women, Kansas City, Missouri, is among the latest jurisdictions to pass an ordinance prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories.

Salary history inquiries will be disallowed beginning October 31, 2019, for all companies in Kansas City with six or more employees. Specifically, the Kansas City salary history ban prohibits employers from:

  • asking about a job applicant’s salary history;
  • screening candidates based on their current or prior wages or other benefits;
  • relying on an applicant’s salary history in deciding whether to make an employment offer, or in determining an applicant’s salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process and negotiation of an employment contract; and
  • refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against applicants who do not disclose their current or past wages, benefits or other compensation.

The Kansas City salary history ban does not apply to:

  • “voluntary and unprompted” disclosure of past salary information by applicants;
  • salary history inadvertently obtained during an employer’s attempt to verify an applicant’s disclosure of non-salary-related information or during a background check, so long as employers do not rely upon the information to determine an applicant’s compensation;
  • applicants for internal transfers or promotions with their current employer;
  • applicants who are rehired within five years of termination when the employer already has salary information from the applicant’s prior employment; and
  • employee positions for which salary or benefits are determined based on procedures established by collective bargaining.

Kansas City Salary History Ban

Ordinance violations are punishable by a maximum fine of $500 or up to 180 days in jail. To comply with the new law, employers should:

  • remove salary questions from any forms used to screen job candidates, such as job applications, questionnaires and background check forms;
  • update interview and employment contract negotiation policies and procedures; and
  • train HR staff, hiring managers, recruiters and interviewers on the new requirements.

The new law applies to all conversations with job applicants. And, while salary expectations may be discussed, employers should take care to avoid asking about them in a way that solicits salary history information or pressures an applicant to disclose past wages, which could violate the ordinance’s provisions.

Salary History Inquiry Bans Gain Momentum

According to the new Kansas City ordinance, women in Missouri and Kansas earn 78 and 77 cents, respectively, for every dollar their male counterparts are paid, compared with the national gap of 80 cents. Salary history bans like the one the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council passed on May 23, 2019, are designed to halt the longtime employer practice of using wage history to set compensation levels for new hires.

Disclosing prior pay creates bias and can result in a capped earning capacity for applicants of any gender. Prohibiting salary history inquiries encourages employers to calculate salaries based on appropriate pay ranges for the open position.

Salary history bans are increasingly common. Over the last few years, numerous states and municipalities have enacted similar laws, and it’s likely many others will follow suit in the months and years ahead.

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