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Employers in the city of Cincinnati will soon be prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history.

The new “Prohibited Salary History Inquiry and Use” ordinance, passed by Cincinnati City Council in 2019, is slated to take effect in April of 2020.  This update to the Cincinnati municipal code restricts the type of pay history information businesses can require or seek from applicants.

What an employer cannot do

Under this new ordinance, it is considered an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer (or one of its agents) to dig into an applicant’s salary history. That includes:

  • Inquiring about the applicant’s pay history
  • Screening applicants based on their current or prior salary
  • Relying on an applicant’s salary history when deciding whether to offer them the job or when determining benefits and compensation
  • Refusing to hire someone because they declined to reveal their salary history

Exemptions to the new law

This new ordinance covers any employer within the City of Cincinnati that has 15 or more employees. That does include job placement and referral agencies. There are a few situations in which these new rules do not apply.

Government agencies inside of the City are exempt. An exception has also been carved out for jobs that are internal transfers or promotions, as well as re-hires within five years. Positions that fall under a collective bargaining agreement are similarly exempted.

What an employer may still do

This new law does not mean compensation can never come up. A job applicant can choose to disclose their salary history, but only if it was voluntary and not prompted by the potential employer. In addition, an employer can openly talk to applicants about their expectations for things such as salary, benefits, and other compensation, so long as salary history is not requested.

In addition, if an employer does a background check or attempts to verify other non-salary information, and the check discloses the applicant’s salary history, that is not necessarily a violation. However, an employer can not use that information to determine salary or benefits for the applicant.

If a business violates this new law, an applicant can file a lawsuit. If successful, the applicant could be awarded compensatory damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, the costs of the action, and other relief the court decides is “just and proper.”

Any employer within the City of Cincinnati should take note of this new restriction, and ensure their current hiring process does not include a salary history inquiry. Otherwise, they may find themselves vulnerable to legal action.