Governor Janet Mills of Maine signed a pay equality bill into law on April 12, 2019, that bans employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories and broadens existing wage transparency requirements.
The bill, Legislative Document (L.D.) 278 (An Act Regarding Pay Equality), passed in the Maine House of Representatives by an 86–54 margin and in the Maine State Senate by a vote of 22–11. Maine is now the eighth state to enact a salary history ban, joining its New England counterparts in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
L.D. 278 specifically prohibits employers from asking about a prospective employee’s compensation history until after that employer has extended a job offer including compensation terms. The law also bars employers from making such inquiries directly to the candidate’s current or former employer. Additionally, L.D. 278 strengthens existing wage transparency laws by clarifying that employers may not stop current employees from discussing their own or another employee’s wages.
The law does have some exceptions. For example, employers may confirm a candidate’s compensation history if the candidate voluntarily discloses it. Also, the law does not apply to an employer who “inquires about compensation history pursuant to any federal or state law that specifically requires the disclosure or verification of compensation history for employment purposes.”
The monetary penalties for violations of the new law are relatively small, with fines of $100 to $500 per violation. However, even a single violation of inquiring “either directly or indirectly” about the compensation history of a prospective employee is now evidence of “unlawful employment discrimination.” This means that job applicants now have an immediate claim they could bring to the Maine Human Rights Commission following a single transgression of L.D. 278. Indeed, the fiscal note for L.D. 278 predicts additional costs to the Maine Human Rights Commission and Maine Department of Labor due to an expected increase in civil complaints.
The new law will take effect on September 17, 2019. Before then, employers operating in Maine may want to review their hiring policies and practices to ensure compliance with the law and inform any personnel interviewing or interacting with applicants of the new prohibitions.