Columbus will soon join Cincinnati and Toledo as the only Ohio localities to implement a "salary history ban." As the name suggests, a salary history ban generally prohibits employers from inquiring about a job applicant's wage rates or salary history while working for a prior employer. Columbus' salary history ban will go into effect March 1, 2024.
Covered Employers and Individuals
The salary history ban applies to all employers with fifteen or more employees within the City of Columbus. The salary history ban protects all individuals applying for employment that will be performed within the City of Columbus, and whose application will be solicited, received, processed, or considered in the City of Columbus, regardless of whether the individual is ultimately interviewed by the employer.
Under the ordinance, employers are specifically prohibited from doing the following:
1. Inquiring about the salary history of an applicant for employment.
a. "Inquiring" includes asking questions or making a statement to an applicant, an applicant's current or prior employer(s), or a current or former employee or agent of the applicant's current or prior employer(s) for the purpose of obtaining the applicant's salary history information. An employer is also prohibited from searching public records to obtain an applicant's salary history information.
2. Screening job applicants based on their current or prior wages, benefits, other compensation, or salary histories, including requiring that these categories satisfy minimum or maximum criteria.
3. Relying solely on the salary history of an applicant in deciding whether to offer employment, or in determining the salary, benefits, or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process, including the negotiation of an employment contract.
4. Refusing to hire or otherwise disfavoring, injuring, or retaliating against an applicant for not disclosing their salary history.
The ordinance does, however, clarify that employers are permitted to engage in discussion with the applicant about the applicant's expectations with respect to salary, benefits, and other compensation and to inform applicants of the proposed or anticipated salary associated with the position for which they have applied.
The salary history ban does not apply to any of the following:
- Actions taken by an employer under any federal, state, or local law that specifically authorizes the reliance on salary history to determine an employee's compensation.
- Applicants for internal transfer or promotion.
- Voluntary and unprompted disclosures of salary history information by an applicant.
- Any attempt by an employer to verify an applicant's disclosure of non-salary related information or conduct a background check, provided that, if the verification or background check discloses the applicant's salary history, that disclosure must not be solely relied upon to determine the salary, benefits, or other compensation of the applicant.
- Applicants who are re-hired by an employer within three years of the applicant's most recent date of termination from that employer, if the employer already has past salary history data regarding the applicant from the applicant's previous employment.
- Positions for which salary, benefits, or other compensation are determined by collective bargaining.
- Federal, state, and local government employers, other than the City of Columbus.
The ordinance provides that an aggrieved applicant may file a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission (CRC). If the CRC finds that an employer has violated the salary history ban, the CRC may impose a civil fine of up to $5,000, depending on the number of violations.
Next Steps for Employers
The Columbus ordinance coincides with efforts across the country – both locally and at the state level – to enact legislative measures designed to promote pay equity and encourage fair and equitable pay practices. With the growing popularity of salary history bans both in Ohio and nationwide, employers should be aware of these new regulations and review and adjust their hiring practices accordingly.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.