In December, New York City Council passed a bill that will require employers to post the salary range for all job openings, promotions and transfer opportunities. When the law is set to go into effect in April, the city will join the growing ranks of states and cities passing salary transparency laws nationwide.
The movement toward greater salary transparency has taken off among advocates and legislators in recent years, says Andrea Johnson, director of state policy at the National Women's Law Center. Decades of research show salary secrecy disproportionately harms women and workers of color, who are less likely than equally qualified white men to negotiate base salaries or raises—and when they do, they ask for less.
Already, at least 14 states have laws that prohibit employers from asking job candidates their salary history, and 20 states and Washington, D.C. offer protections for workers to discuss pay. Advocates say increased discussions about pay, especially transparency from employers, can be another tool to help close the gender and racial wage gaps.
It's an important shift, Johnson tells CNBC Make It. "We should be putting the onus on employers to create structures that are equitable to begin with, and not putting the onus on applicants to make sure they're being paid fairly. That should be expected."
Pay transparency laws vary by state and city, such as when employers are required to disclose it (upfront versus when asked) and what employers are required to do so. Johnson encourages job-seekers and workers to check their state's Department of Labor sites for more information.
Here are the states and cities where employers are required to disclose salary ranges during the hiring process.
In January 2018, California's Equal Pay Act became the first in the country to ban employers from asking applicants about their salary history. It also requires employers to disclose the pay range for a job if an applicant asks for it after an initial interview.
As of 2020 and per Cincinnati's Prohibited Salary Inquiry and Use, employers in the city are banned from asking applicants about their salary history. Employers must provide the pay range of a job after they've made an offer and if the applicant asks for it.
Beginning in January 2021, Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to include the pay range and benefits in every job listing. Companies with at least one employee in the state are required to post pay for any remote job that could potentially be performed in the state.
Employers must also notify current employees of all promotion opportunities and keep records of job descriptions and wages.
Beginning October 2021, employers in Connecticut must provide the salary range if an applicant asks for it, or if the employer extends an offer — whichever occurs first.
Employers must provide an employee the pay range when they're hired, if they change to a new position, or if they request it for their current role.
In 2020, Maryland updated its Equal Pay for Equal Work law to ban employers from asking candidates about their salary history, and require employers to disclose the pay range to applicants upon request.
As of October 2021, Nevada employers can't ask about salary history and must provide the salary range to applicants after an initial interview automatically, even if the applicant hasn't asked for it.
For internal moves, employers must provide pay ranges for a transfer or promotion if an employee has applied for it, completed an interview and requests it.
As of April 2022, employers in New York City will be required to list the minimum and maximum salary on all job postings, promotions or transfer opportunities.
Coming in January 2023, the Rhode Island Equal Pay Law will require employers to provide candidates pay range information during interviews upon request. Employers must disclose the range for a role before they discuss compensation.
Employers must disclose the salary range when an employee moves into a new position. And workers can ask their employer for the salary range of their current role.
Beginning in 2020, Toledo's Pay Equity Act states that employers in the city are prohibited from asking applicants about their salary history. Employers must provide the pay range on a job after they've made an offer and if the applicant asks for it.
In 2019, Washington amended its Equal Pay and Opportunities Act to say employers must provide the minimum and maximum pay range for a job after they've made an offer and if the candidate asks for it.
Employers must provide the range for an internal transfer or promotion to existing employees, if the employee asks for it. And if a scale or range doesn't exist, the employer must provide the employee with the minimum salary expectation, which must be set prior to posting the position, making a position transfer or making the promotion.
Employers haven't always been so tight-lipped about salaries, Johnson says, explaining that pay discussions became more restrictive following the financial crisis of 2008: "The economic power dynamics in hiring shifted. Applicants had less power, and employers could hold their cards close."
Now, as workers weather the pandemic with more job opportunities and promise of flexible work than ever, Johnson says, "we're coming out of a less transparent period."
Emerging salary range laws are crucial in the context of today's pandemic economic recovery. Women, employees of color and low-wage workers disproportionately forced out of work must be brought back in with the right support and equitable pay, Johnson says. "We need to think about how we bring them back in and rebuild the economy, and do it in a way that's sustainable for people and strengthens business."
Publicizing salaries can be time-saving for employers, too, by attracting job-seekers and weeding out those whose expectations don't match up.
At the federal level, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 bans pay discrimination on the basis of sex. But decades later, employer pay practices continue to create gender and racial wage gaps. Lawmakers have tried to strengthen fair pay laws through the Paycheck Fairness Act, but little progress has been made since it was introduced in 1997. The House reintroduced and passed the legislation last spring, but the Senate failed to advance it.