Lawmakers Look To Bridge Gender Pay Gap By Nixing Questions About Salary History

Jan 12, 2018

A bipartisan group of female senators has introduced legislation that they say will help close the pay gap between men and women.

Census data show that women who work fulltime in Vermont make about 16 percent less on average than men in fulltime jobs. Some Vermont senators say they intend to bridge that pay gap by prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

“Too often women unknowingly perpetuate inequitable compensation when they’re asked to provide their salary history in the job interview process,” Windsor County Sen. Alison Clarkson said at a press conference Friday.

Clarkson and other senators say questions about pay history allow gender-based salary inequities to persist across jobs. Business groups have mounted legal challenges in other jurisdictions that have passed the measure.

Windham County Sen. Becca Balint says that won’t dissuade lawmakers from taking action in Vermont.

“Often, we get scared off from passing anything because we think there may be a legal challenge down the line. And I think all of us are frustrated enough that we’re willing to test it,” Balint says.

The legislation also directs the Vermont Department of Labor to collect new data comparing the salaries of men and women in Vermont. It’s illegal under state law for employers to pay men more than comparably experienced women for doing the same job.

Balint, however, says “laws meant to combat pay inequity and other workplace discrimination only work when there is enforcement.”

“And enforcement can only happen when there is complete and accurate data,” Balint said.