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The City of Kansas City, Missouri Bans Salary History Inquiries

Alert
05.24.2019
By Ashley Dillon and Erin Naeger

Kansas City employers soon will be prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history information, including prior compensation and benefits. Under a new ordinance passed by the KCMO City Council on Thursday, May 23, 2019, such inquiries will no longer be allowed effective October 31, 2019.

Specifically, the ordinance prohibits an employer from inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history or screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages or other benefits. The ordinance also prohibits employers from relying on an applicant’s salary history in deciding whether to offer the applicant employment or in determining the applicant’s salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process or negotiation of an employment contract.

However, the ordinance does not penalize employers for any voluntary and unprompted disclosures by applicants of their salary history information. The ordinance also does not apply to applicants for internal transfer or promotion within their current employer, applicants who are re-hired by the employer within five years of the applicant’s date of termination from employment where the employer already has past salary information for that applicant, or to positions for which salary or benefits are determined pursuant to procedures established by collective bargaining.

The new ordinance applies to all employers with six or more employees. Violations of the ordinance will be punishable by a fine of as much as $500 or 180 days in jail.

To comply with the new ordinance, employers should:

  • Remove salary questions from any hiring forms, such as job applications, online applications, candidate questionnaires and background check forms
  • Update interview and negotiation policies and procedures
  • Train hiring managers, recruiters and interviewers on the new provisions

Interviewers need to be aware that this law applies to all conversations with applicants. Employers can discuss an applicant's salary expectations, but interviewers should be mindful of the law's restrictions. For example, asking about salary expectations in a way that is intended to solicit salary history information or pressures an applicant to disclose such information could violate the ordinance’s requirements.

Salary history bans are becoming more common. Over the past several years, numerous states and municipalities have enacted such salary history bans, including California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York City. Proponents of salary history bans argue that using workers' prior salary history to set their new salary perpetuates lower pay for women and minorities. According to the new ordinance, Kansas City had a gender pay gap of 21.7 percent in 2018, which is wider than the national average. The ordinance further states that women in Missouri and Kansas earn 78 and 77 cents, respectively, relative to their male counterparts, compared with the national gap of 80 cents on the dollar.

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