Suffolk County Executive Bellone Signs First-of-its-Kind Legislation on Long Island to Foster Pay Equity

RISE Act Prohibits Employers from Requiring Job Applicants to Provide Pay History.

Print Email

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Photo by: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, via Flickr

Suffolk County, NY - November 30, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today joined with New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to sign legislation that will prohibit any employer within the county from requesting or seeking the wage history of a prospective employee during the interview and hiring process. The RISE Act, which stands for Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings, is intended to close the pay gap for women and people of color in the workforce. 
“I am proud to sign this legislation into law, which puts us one step closer to closing the pay gap once and for all,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Any pay gap, no matter how big or small, is an injustice, which not only affects today’s job applicants, but also future generations.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said: "Equal pay for equal work.' Susan B. Anthony’s words ring as clear and true today as they did when she first uttered them. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, NY has made immense progress moving the pay equity needle; but there is still work to be done. The RISE Act, County Executive Bellone’s groundbreaking local legislation, helps further move that needle for women and people of color on Long Island.”
New York State Senator-elect Monica Martinez said: “The passage of the RISE Act is a great way to protect all Suffolk County residents from wage discrimination and receive fair pay. This law permits all employees the opportunity to secure an equal and fair salary when navigating the job market. All Suffolk County residents will benefit from the positive impact of this new legislation.”
According to a report issued by the New York State Department of Labor in April 2018, in Suffolk County, women earn only 78.1 percent of what their male counterparts earn, compared to the statewide percentage of 86.8 percent. Women of color in New York fare worse than women of other backgrounds; African American women earn 64.4 percent and Latino or Hispanic women earn 55.3 percent of what men earn. Women and minorities may be negatively impacted by employers who rely on salary and wage history when making an employment offer due to these statistically-proven lower wages.
The countywide ban on inquiring about salary history goes into effect on June 30, 2019, affects both public and private sector employers with four or more employees, and includes every stage of the hiring process. This new law would protect most job applicants in Suffolk County, and only exclude applicants who are seeking an internal transfer or promotion with their current employer and applicants who are seeking a position with public employers for which compensation is set pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
The law prohibits any employer or employment agency from inquiring about a job applicant’s current or previous wage, which includes benefits or other compensation or salary histories. The employer is prohibited from soliciting information from the job applicant’s former or current employer, from searching public records regarding the applicant’s current or prior earnings, and must not rely on the applicant’s current or prior earnings in determining the applicant’s new wage or salary. If an applicant is willing, they will be able to disclose salary history to an employer or employment agency. A job applicant may provide authorization to a prospective employer to confirm salary history and consider current or previous earnings during the interview process. Prospective employers can ask an applicant about competing offers and counter offers the applicant has received, along with the value of those offers.
Legislator Tom Cilmi, Minority Leader of the Republican caucus said: “America is built on the premise of equal opportunity for all.  It is in that spirit that I am pleased to support this initiative.  While discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated, hopefully THIS law makes it clear that there is no room in the workplace for wage discrimination of any kind.”
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said: “For decades there has been a persistent and significant gap in the pay for women performing comparable work to that of their male colleagues. The disparity is well known, and presents an obstacle to the success of women in the economy. It runs counter to the basic tenants of our nation, that we are all treated equally. It is a very real problem and this bill provides a good fix.”
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker said: “The Suffolk County RISE Act symbolizes a major step forward in furthering equality in the workplace. The law will level the playing field and ensure that all employees are compensated equally based on their experience and qualifications, not on their salary history. It takes aim at the cycle of inequality and discrimination that so often prevents women, minorities, and senior citizens from advancing in their careers.”
Suffolk County Legislator Susan A. Berland said: “I am proud to be a cosponsor of the RISE Act, which unanimously passed the full Legislature. Every person in Suffolk County deserves to be paid based on their skills and qualifications, not their previous salary and this legislation is a vital tool in making that a reality. Women, particularly women of color are historically paid lower wages than men and this legislation goes a long way to help end that wage gap. It is our responsibility as elected officials to provide all of our constituents with opportunities to RISE and this legislation is an excellent step in that direction.”
The enactment of this legislation works to prevent the perpetuation of the pay gap by ensuring the salary offered by the employer is not based upon the prior wages earned, but on responsibility and qualifications. Job applicants may report violations of the salary history law to the Suffolk County Human Rights commission and may be able to recover damages. Employers that violate the law may be required to pay damages or a fine, and may be subject to additional affirmative relief such as mandated training and posting requirements.
The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning estimates that closing the gender wage gap in Suffolk would result in a net increase of spending within the County of approximately $664 million annually, which could increase Suffolk County’s total economic output by an estimated $1.14 billion, or approximately 1.3 percent of Suffolk’s estimated Gross Domestic Product of $85.2 billion. Additionally, a 2016 analysis commissioned by the New York Women’s Foundation, in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, found if New York’s working women were paid the same as their male peers, men who are of the same age, have the same level of education, work the same number of hours, and have the same urban/rural status, it would reduce the poverty rate for the state’s women and their families by more than half, from 7.5 percent to 3.6 percent.
Similar laws have been enacted in municipalities across the Country and in New York State, including New York City, Westchester County and Albany County. Suffolk County is the fourth municipality in New York State and the first on Long Island to adopt a law of this nature.