Effective January 6, 2020, New York employers no longer may rely on a prospect’s salary history to determine his or her pay. Governor Cuomo signed bills into law with this and other employee protections during the U.S. Women’s Soccer team celebration parade in New York City.

New York Labor Law section 194-a will prohibit New York employers from (1) relying on salary history to determine salary or wages; (2) asking an employee or applicant about salary history as a condition for an interview, job, or promotion; and (3) retaliating against an employee who files a compliant because she was asked about salary history. Notably, the law doesn’t prevent employees from volunteering salary information, however.

An employer who violates section 194-a can be liable for compensatory damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees.

Existing Labor Law section 193 always prohibited pay differentials due to gender. The expanded version of section 193 now prohibits pay differentials on account of an employee’s status in any protected class, not just gender. Although an employee can’t recover civil damages under section 193, the State can impose a $500 fine for each violation.

Despite the law, New York employers should know that there remain many acceptable reasons to pay employees differently. Generally, differences in pay based on seniority, merit, productivity, or quality of work are appropriate.

There also are certain circumstances in which an employer still may lawfully rely on an employee’s salary history, but it’s tricky, so employers should be sure to contact legal counsel for guidance before walking down this path.

If you’re an employer with questions about New York or federal employment laws, contact us. The attorneys at The Coppola Firm stand ready to assist.

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