The #MeToo movement has made its way into new Illinois legislation which has been recently headlined.
On Aug. 1, legislation passed that amends the Illinois Equal Pay Act such that, effective 60 days after its passage, employers are obligated to follow several new rules on requesting or disclosing wage history from employees or job applicants.
First, an employer cannot bar an employee from disclosing or discussing with third parties his/her wages, salary, benefits or other compensation from his/her current employer. The human resource personnel of an employer cannot disclose such info to third parties without the applicant’s/employee’s written consent.
Second, employers now cannot screen job applicants based on their current or prior wage, salary or benefits histories either as a condition of interviewing or getting employed. Employers are not prevented from examining an applicant’s wages, salaries or benefits that are a matter of public record under applicable law — such as government employees who may have their wages or salaries published under law as part of the transparency of the government to its taxpayers.
Job applicants are free to voluntarily disclose their income histories to an employer, and employers may disclose wage or benefits to an applicant when discussing the expectations of a job position. But employers can’t prompt the employee to disclose prior income histories. That’s a no-no. And employers cannot ask about the wage history from an applicant’s prior employers.
However, employers are not prohibited from looking at the internal wage history of someone already in their employ who is seeking a new position.
If an employer violates such inquiry prohibitions, the applicant can sue. Without proving any injury, the applicant can get up to $10,000, plus attorney’s fees and any necessary court order issued on the employer.
If an applicant suffered actual financial injury in excess of the 10 thousand cap, he/she can get it if they can prove it. The deadline to file such a suit is five years from the date of the violation.
While Chamber of Commerce organizations grumbled and groused about the law (as they do over any legislation inhibiting the bargaining leverage of employers), the thinking behind this legislation is that, because women have generally been paid less than their male counterparts for similar occupations, restrictions on such compensation information might help break the cycle of lower salaries for women.
The employer cannot force the female applicant to disclose that she was paid Y, which may have been lower than the X salary a male got for exactly the same type of job. Otherwise the employer says, well, I will offer you Y here since that’s what you got before. And if the employer knows a male applicant earned the higher X amount in previous jobs, the employer is likely to offer X again to nab that male applicant.
Thus, the cycle.
Keep an eye on this spot for more #MeToo law. Another Illinois bill is expected to pass soon prohibiting employers from requiring employees to sign silence and arbitration agreements involving sexual harassment. That’s another cycle sought to be broken — of silence, promoting cover, promoting more sexual harassment.
Ending mandatory silence and arbitration agreements is one area of law that Fox News might have had a real positive effect on.
Can you hear the no-spin now, Bill?