Illinois businesses could face lawsuits for asking about wage history under proposal

  • Illinois state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin.

    Illinois state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin. Image courtesy of BlueRoomStream

By Cole Lauterbach
The Center Square
Updated 5/24/2019 8:09 AM

The Illinois House is poised to send Gov. J.B. Pritzker a bill that would ban employers from asking about a job applicant's pay at previous jobs.

The bill passed Senate muster Wednesday, but has an amendment that needs House approval. If enacted, it would ban any employer from asking a job applicant about prior jobs and what they paid. Doing so could open the employer up to lawsuits.


State Sen. Christina Castro said wage history perpetuates the gender pay gap, which can be even worse for minority women.

"This is about equity and the time is now," said Castro, D-Elgin.

As of 2017, women earned about 80 percent of what men earned for doing the same work, according to the American Association of University Women and other sources. That statistic has been questioned because it may not take into consideration all factors involved with final pay gaps.

Nine states, all located on the east or west coasts except Hawaii, have imposed a statewide wage history ban on private employers. Many states prevent their agencies from asking about previous pay.

No Midwestern states have imposed a ban on employers asking about salary history. Wisconsin and Michigan have enacted bans on local governments imposing any such measure.

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State Sen. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy, said the new rules are more red tape for businesses in Illinois to deal with that others states don't impose.

"They are struggling to keep their doors open," she said. "If we keep heaping these bills one upon another on them, they'll just leave."

Pritzker banned any state agency from asking about wage history via executive order in January.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed similar legislation in 2017 and 2018. He said the law should more resemble that of Massachusetts, banning the question, but not allowing it as the basis for legal action in most cases if the applicant's pay is known, referred to as an "affirmative defense."


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