Salary history law takes effect July 1

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has signed into law a bill prohibiting employers from asking about the salary history of prospective employees, a measure intended to break the "pay gap cycle" that traps those who have suffered from lower wages through discrimination. The law takes effect July 1.

"For those who have been held back by their pay history, the legislation opens the door to new opportunities," Scott said at the signing on Friday. "This will prevent hiring equally skilled or experienced employees at different rates simply because one person was paid more in a previous job. Prior to this bill, low wage workers could be held back from climbing the economic ladder, because they were required to reveal their past wages when applying for this new position."

The legislation, H.294, prohibits employers from requesting salary history of prospective employees or their current or former employers, requiring the prospective employees' prior salary history meet minimum or maximum criteria, and determining whether to interview a prospective employee based on their current or past compensation. If the prospective employee voluntarily discloses previous or current compensation in the hiring process, the employer, once they offer the job, can seek to confirm that information. In addition, employers may inquire about salary expectations or requirements, and provide information about the position's salary and compensation.

"All people deserve to work in an environment free from sexual harassment," said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) said. "This bill improves preventative measures and addresses incidents of sexual harassment for all work environments in the State of Vermont. The legislation creates a common standard for all work environments to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination."

Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), the lead sponsor of the bill, said, "I am proud of the work the Legislature has done in response to the national #MeToo movement. We heard the voices of victims of all types of harassment in the workplace and other concerned citizens, and put together legislation that better protects victims."

"When the pay at a new job is based on the pay at an old job, this can force women, and especially women of color, to carry pay discrepancies with them from job to job," said Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women. "A pay disparity early on can haunt a woman for her entire career." Brown provided testimony in both the House and the Senate on the bill and its relationship to the gender wage gap.

— Banner staff

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