The Albany County Legislature recently amended the Human Rights Law for Albany County to join New York City, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon, Puerto Rico, California, and San Francisco in banning inquiries into salary histories. On November 6, 2017, County Executive Daniel P. McCoy signed the bill into law. It will go into effect 30 days after it is filed with the office of the New York secretary of state.

Unlawful Conduct

The new law will prohibit all employers and employment agencies in Albany County with four or more employees within the county from:

  • screening “job applicants based on their wage, including benefits or other compensation or salary histories”;
  • requesting or requiring as a condition of being interviewed or continued consideration “that a job applicant disclose prior wages or salary history;” or
  • seeking “the salary history of any job applicant from any current or former employer.”

Narrow Exception

Unlike its legal counterpart in New York City, which contains several exceptions, the Albany County law only contains one narrow exception to the prohibition: employers or employment agencies may confirm a job applicant’s prior wages, benefits, or other compensation history after extending an offer of employment, including compensation information, to the applicant, with the written authorization of the applicant.

Penalties for Violations

Because the law is an amendment to the Human Rights Law for Albany County, employers that improperly inquire about or rely upon a job applicant’s salary history may be subject to compensatory damages, reinstatement (with or without back pay), and reporting and/or oversight imposed by the Albany Commission on Human Rights (ACHR). In addition to oversight by the ACHR, the Human Rights Law for Albany County also provides for a private right of action.

How Can Employers Prepare?

To prepare for the law’s implementation, Albany employers may want to review their current practices to ensure that:

  1. written job applications do not seek or require applicants to disclose their prior salaries, benefits, or other compensation information;
  2. any handbook policies and similar policy documents do not call for an applicant to provide his or her compensation history as part of a job interview or reference check;
  3. any verification of salary history is completed only with a job applicant’s authorization and after an offer of employment with compensation information has been extended; and
  4. all employees involved in the recruitment process are informed of and trained on the requirements of the new law.