Suffolk Prohibits Employers from Asking Applicants about Prior Compensation

December 6, 2018 | Kenneth A. Novikoff | Brian S. Conneely | John K. Diviney | Keegan B. Sapp | Tamika Hardy | Employment & Labor

Suffolk County will now join New York City, Albany County and Westchester County, in prohibiting employers from inquiring into the salary and benefits history of job applicants. The intent of the new law is to reduce pay inequality for women and minorities. Effective June 30, 2019, an employer, employment agency, employee or agent in Suffolk County may not:

  1. Inquire, in an application or otherwise, about a job applicant’s wage or salary history, including but not limited to, compensation and benefits. This means employers will be prevented from asking an applicant or former employer orally or in writing, or to conduct a search of publicly available records or reports for an applicant’s prior salary and benefits history; and
  2. Rely on the salary history of an applicant for employment in determining the wage or salary amount for such applicant at any stage in the employment process.

The law does not give guidance as to how salary discussions should take place. The New York City law prohibiting prior salary history discussions does however permit employers to discuss the applicant’s salary expectations.

Prospective or current employees may file a complaint for violations of the new law with the Suffolk County of Human Rights Commission. Violations of the law may result in 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).

In light of these salary history bans, employers in New York should continue to review and update employment applications, hiring documents and interview notes to ensure compliance with the law. Employers may also want to discuss the new law’s requirements with third parties who act on their behalf such as recruiters. As more local and state jurisdictions pass such laws, it is also important for employers to pay attention to pay equity trends and initiate or continue discussions about methods to evaluate compensation and value positions. If you have any questions, please contact Ken Novikoff at (516) 357-3110, Brian Conneely at (516) 357-3174, John Diviney at (516) 357-3234, Scott Green at (516) 357-3139 or Keegan Sapp at (516) 357-3320.

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