Illinois Joins Salary History Ban Trend

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

August 6, 2019

Illinois has become the latest state to pass a law banning private employers from asking job applicants about their current or past salary or benefits history. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the measure last week, which will take effect on September 29.

The salary history inquiry ban strengthens the Illinois Equal Protection Act in a number of ways by prohibiting employers from:

  • Requiring that an applicant's prior wage history satisfy minimum or maximum criteria;
  • Requesting or requiring as a condition of being interviewed, or continuing to be considered for a job, that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary;
  • Reaching out to applicant's former employers to seek salary history information, with limited exceptions; and
  • Requiring employees to sign wage confidentiality agreements that ban them from discussing or disclosing information about their salary or benefits.

Illinois employers may still discuss salary expectations with candidates. In addition, they are not in violation of the law if an applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses his or her current or prior salary history. However, employers may not consider the voluntary disclosures as a factor in deciding whether to make a job offer or in determining future salary, benefits or other compensation.

Women in Illinois make up almost half the workforce but earn 79 percent of what men earn on average, according to a statement by the governor's office. The disparity is even larger for minority women, with black women earning 63 cents and Latinas earning 48 cents compared to every dollar that white men earn for performing similar work.

"The hiring process serves one purpose and one purpose alone: finding the best person for the job at hand," said Gov. Pritzker. "It's no longer acceptable to wring quality work out of capable women at a discounted rate."

Employers violating the law face steep penalty provisions, including:

  • Affected applicants or employees may sue for damages up to $10,000 plus costs and attorney's fees; and
  • Civil penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation for each affected applicant or employee.

After taking office in January, Gov. Pritzker signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from asking state job applicants about their pay at previous jobs. Twice before, the Illinois legislature passed similar measures for private employers, but former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed them both times.

The Illinois salary history measure comes on the heels of a similar law in New Jersey signed a few days earlier. Several other states and localities also have enacted salary history inquiry bans in recent years.