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The City of Cincinnati Bars Employers From Asking Applicants About Their Salary History

March 3, 2020

Numerous sources report that for the same or similar work, women are paid about 80% of what men are paid. Although there are a variety of possible explanations for this discrepancy, many believe that it is the result of sex discrimination. Further, advocates argue that if a woman encounters sex discrimination in pay from one employer, that discrimination could travel with her to other jobs if new employers ask what the woman was making at the previous job. To try to prevent this, some jurisdictions are adopting laws that prevent employers from asking applicants about their salary history. As of March 13, 2020, Cincinnati is one of those jurisdictions.

The Cincinnati ordinance applies to employers with 15 or more employees and to any employment by those employers that is to be performed within the City’s boundaries. The ordinance generally prevents an employer from: asking both male and female applicants about their salary history; screening applicants based on their salary history; relying on salary history in making hiring or compensation decisions; or retaliating against an applicant who refuses to disclose their salary history. In addition, once a conditional offer of employment is made, the ordinance requires the employer to give the applicant the salary range for the positon if there is a reasonable request from the applicant.

Notwithstanding these restrictions, the ordinance allows employers to ask applicants what their salary expectations are for a position. Care should be used in making such an inquiry as it could easily be viewed by an applicant as a sneaky way of asking about salary history. An employer is not liable under the ordinance if an applicant voluntarily and without request reveals some or all of their salary history.

The ordinance allows applicants who believe their rights have been violated to sue the employer. They can recover compensatory damages, costs, and attorney’s fees, among other possible remedies.

Employers should review their hiring practices to make sure that they are in compliance. This should include reviewing all application/intake forms to make sure that salary history is not being captured. There are a number of aspects of this ordinance that are beyond the scope of this memo. If you have questions about the ordinance, please contact us at Wood + Lamping.

About the Author

Edward S. “Ned” Dorsey

Edward S. “Ned” Dorsey

Ned Dorsey is a highly experienced labor and employment attorney.

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