In a thinly veiled attempt to steal the spotlight from Cleveland, the new destination city for the National Football League, on March 13, 2019, the Cincinnati City Council passed Ordinance No. 83-2019, titled Prohibited Salary History Inquiry and Use, barring employers from inquiring about or relying on job applicants’ salary histories. It is scheduled to become effective in March 2020, and it applies to private employers with 15 or more employees in the city of Cincinnati.
The ordinance makes it “an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer or its agent to:
- Inquire about the salary history of an applicant for employment; or
- Screen job applicants based on their current or prior wages, benefits, other compensation, or salary histories, including requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, benefits, other compensation or salary history satisfy minimum or maximum criteria; or
- Rely on the salary history of an applicant in deciding whether to offer employment to an applicant, or in determining the salary, benefits, or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process, including the negotiation of an employment contract; or
- Refuse to hire or otherwise disfavor, injure, or retaliate against an applicant for not disclosing his or her salary history to an employer.”
The ordinance does not limit employers from asking applicants “about their expectations with respect to salary, benefits, and other compensation, including but not limited to unvested equity or deferred compensation that an applicant would forfeit or have cancelled by virtue of the applicant’s resignation from their current employer.” Ordinance No. 83-2019 requires that, following a conditional offer of employment, upon request, the employer must provide the conditional offeree the pay scale for the position. The ordinance provides a private right of action to enforce the law. Remedies for violating the ordinance include “compensatory damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, the cost of the action, and such legal and equitable relief as the court deems just and proper.”
Ordinance No. 83-2019 is designed to “ensure that . . . job applicants in Cincinnati are offered employment positions and subsequently compensated based on their job responsibilities and level of experience, rather than on prior salary histories.” In reality, it reaches well beyond Cincinnati, as state and local salary history bans are proliferating. Many municipalities, cities, and states across the country have passed laws limiting salary inquiries, and legislation is pending in numerous other jurisdictions around the country.