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SF to prohibit employers from asking for salary history to close gender wage gap

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According to U.S. Census figures, women in San Francisco are paid 16 cents less on the dollar than their male counterparts. Supervisor Mark Farrell has introduced legislation that is meant to close that gap. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco is expected to join a growing number of municipalities that prohibit employers from asking applicants their job salary history in an effort to close the wage gap between men and women.

Women in San Francisco are paid 16 cents less on the dollar than men in San Francisco, according to U.S. Census figures, and the disparity worsens for women of color, with black women paid 60 cents on the dollar and Latina women 55 cents.

To close the current wage gap, which is estimated to shrink a mere half-cent annually, it would take women hundreds of years.

That’s why Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced legislation that would prohibit private employers in San Francisco from asking for and considering past salary information when deciding what salary to offer applicants. The proposal also applies to city government and its contractors.

“If women are always held back and down by their salary history, they are prevented from ever catching up with men,” Farrell said. “We have to stop it.”

The legislation was praised during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee. Some amendments were made during the hearing, such as postponing the initial implementation date from January 2018 to July 2018 to give time for businesses and The City’s enforcement wing, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, to prepare. It is also timed for when the minimum wage increase occurs.

The committee is expected to hold a hearing June 21 on the proposal with a full board vote on June 27.

For the first year, OLSE would only issue warnings if there are violations, but beginning in July 2019, fines could be assessed beginning at $100, and for egregious cases the City Attorney’s Office can sue the employer.

A job applicant would be able to voluntarily disclose their salary if they are seeking a better offer, but an employer couldn’t ask an applicant for salary history. An employer could ask for the applicant’s salary expectations.

Last year, Massachusetts became the first state to adopt a similar law. New York City and Philadelphia followed suit this year.

Jennifer Reisch, the legal director of Equal Rights Advocates, a nonprofit advocating for women’s equality, said that the wage gap “is undermining the economic security of women and families.”

She added that an employer’s reliance on salary histories only ensures that the “historical patterns of gender bias and discrimination repeat themselves.”

Supervisor Jane Kim, who supports the legislation, said, “I’ve always said that I am very lucky that my salary is set by The City’s charter so that I know that I make as much as my male colleagues.”

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