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House passes measure prohibiting employers from asking about past salaries

In an effort to close existing gender and race wage gaps, Minnesota employers would be prohibited from asking about past salaries under a bill passed 80-51 by the House Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul), HF403 now goes to the Senate where Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

Her said a white woman makes 80 cents on average for every dollar a man makes in the state, and those pay inequities will persist if Minnesotans have future salaries anchored to their past pay.

“Pay history questions not only artificially anchor down a woman’s pay, but it also means that someone can often not escape the pay gap by trying to get a new job,” she said.

Her cited data from the Department of Human Rights showing the wage gap is even worse for Asian, Black and Native American women, with Latinas having the largest wage gap of 53 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“Over the course of a career, women lose roughly $400,500 in lifetime earnings because of the pay gap,” Her said.

Eighteen states have already ended the pay history question, Her said, noting that salaries in those states are up 8% for all women, and 13% for Black workers.

Employers, including labor unions and employment agencies, would be prevented from asking about a prospective employee’s past pay, which could then be used as an anchor for future salaries. A job applicant could volunteer their past pay.

Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have removed from the bill the rebuttable presumption that use of pay history received on an application for employment to determine the future wages for that applicant is an unfair discriminatory employment practice prohibited by state employment discrimination law.

Scott said that provision would put employers in the impossible position of having to “prove a negative” when trying to show they didn’t use a past salary to set an employee’s or prospective employee’s salary.

Her opposed the amendment, saying it “effectively strips off the enforcement protection in this bill.”


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