Illinois companies will no longer be allowed to ask job applicants or their previous employers about salary history under a measure Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Wednesday.
Advocates say asking applicants about their salaries at previous jobs helps perpetuate a wage gap between men and women doing the same jobs. Illinois lawmakers passed two previous versions of the legislation, but Pritzker’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, vetoed both.
“We are declaring that one’s history should not dictate one’s future, that no person should be held back from earning their true value because of how much money they were paid in a previous job,” Pritzker said during a bill-signing event at Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens in the Prairie District neighborhood on the Near South Side. “It’s no longer acceptable to wring quality work out of capable women at a discounted rate.”
The measure Pritzker signed, which takes effect in 60 days, passed with bipartisan support this spring in the House and Senate. Workers will be able to seek up to $10,000 in damages if employers violate the law, and it also protects the right of employees to discuss their salaries and benefits with co-workers.
State Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat who sponsored the legislation in each of the past three years, praised Pritzker for finally making it law.
“It illustrates yet again how … compassionate, inclusive and effective leadership can change lives and improve our state,” Moeller said.
The measure is one step toward ensuring a more certain economic future for women in Illinois, she said.
“We need to do more to eliminate the barriers that keep women from reaching their full economic potential,” Moeller said, listing paid parental leave, predictable scheduling and affordable, accessible child care as future priorities.
In vetoing the previous legislation, Rauner argued that there were more business-friendly ways to address the issue. He pointed to a law that took effect in Massachusetts last year that is similar but allows employers to ask for wage history after making a job and salary offer.
Moeller’s bills also faced opposition from business groups, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
“I am dumbstruck by those who say they support equal pay but then do everything in their power to work against it,” said Wendy Pollack, director of the Women’s Law and Policy Initiative at the Chicago-based Shriver Center on Poverty Law. “But this year is different. Thanks to Gov. Pritzker, we have a very different outcome.”
Pollack said the new law is “an affirmative step toward closing the wage gap.” Women in Illinois, on average, earn 79 cents for every dollar white men earn, she said.
Pritzker noted that he was signing the bill a short distance from the headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has come under fire for allegedly paying the World Cup champion women’s national team less than the men’s team “despite the women’s substantially higher success rate,” he said.
Chicago-based U.S. Soccer this week released a letter saying it pays the women more, though it included their salaries for playing on professional teams in the National Women’s Soccer League in addition to their pay for playing on the national team. The union representing the men’s team released a statement criticizing U.S. Soccer’s position.
In one of his first acts upon taking office in January, Pritzker signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from asking job applicants about their pay at previous jobs. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year signed a similar executive order for city workers last year.
A Lombard native, Dan Petrella has written for newspapers from Chicago to Carbondale. Before joining the Tribune in 2017, he was Springfield bureau chief for Lee Enterprises newspapers. He’s also been an editor and reporter at The State Journal-Register in Springfield. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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July 31, 2019 at 04:28PM
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