Suffolk County employers, take note: effective June 30, 2019, employers in the county will be barred from asking about a job applicant’s salary history during the hiring process or relying on any such information to determine compensation.

The change is the result of the recently passed Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings (“RISE”) Act, which applies to employers with four or more employees. Under the new legislation, inquiring about a candidate’s salary history (including compensation and benefits), whether orally, in writing, on an application, or otherwise, or conducting research into the candidate’s salary history, is prohibited. The law also bars employers from relying on a candidate’s salary history in determining his or her compensation at the new company at any stage of the hiring process – including at the offer or contract stage.

Penalties for violating this law will include compensatory damages to the individual as well as payments to Suffolk County, up to $50,000. Fines could reach $100,000 if the violation is found to be willful, wanton, or malicious.

The intended purpose of the legislation is to help eliminate the gender wage gap, as well as wage inequity for employees from minority groups. In other words, the law is intended to give employees coming from lower paying jobs an opportunity to not be weighed down at their new positions.  The belief is that employers will focus more on the local job market to determine the appropriate wages.

While a salary history ban has not been implemented statewide, Suffolk County joins a number of areas in the state, including Westchester County, Albany, and New York City, that have already passed such legislation. (Please contact us for additional guidance if your business operates in any of these regions.) A statewide bill may go to the State Senate for a vote in 2019.

In advance of the June 2019 effective date, employers should take the opportunity to update their employment practices to comply with the new law. Removing any references to salary history on your application forms is a critical first step. All employees who conduct interviews and participate in the hiring process should also be trained in compliance with the new policy.

This law comes on the heels of the new sexual harassment laws passed in New York State. Passed in April, that legislation requires employers to have both a sexual harassment prevention policy as well as training for their employees.

If you have questions about the RISE Act, or about your sexual harassment policy, please contact us.