Ill. GA: Wage History

Last week, several House Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in overriding the Governor’s veto of the Pay History Prohibition legislation, HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin/Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie). The bill sought to prohibit an employer from asking job applicants their wage or salary history. The idea is that women are getting paid less than men and this follows them from job to job. The theory is that if an employer is not be able to ask about a person’s previous wage they will be paid more.

In reality, the bill does a great deal more than just prohibit employers from asking about prior wages and salaries. It does not allow a company to base an employee’s salary or raise on seniority, merit, or quality or quantity of production. These are the current defenses to an unequal pay claim in Illinois and almost every other state. Courts have repeatedly upheld these process as legitimate business measures that protect and promote employees. HB 2462 would have prohibited a company from using these common sense and practical measures as defenses if an employee can find any “alternative practice” used by any company in the United States for a similar job. In Illinois, a state of just under 13 million people, only 266 claims have been filed in the last four years. Only 13 claims were found to have any merit. Only ½ of 1% of all businesses in Illinois are responsible for any paid out unequal pay claims. Companies spent more money defending frivolous claims than unequal pay claims were awarded by the courts. Frivolous claims will only be exacerbated by the fact the legislation also provides for additional penalties that includes but is not limited to compensatory damages, punitive damages, and special damages. Additionally, a claimant would be allowed to pursue federal damages in addition to the state damages. Unfortunately for all, this all could have been avoided if compromise was alive and well in Springfield.

When it became clear that lawmakers understood the overreach of the legislation in lieu of the offered compromise by the business coalition and there was not enough votes for the override, the proponents drafted another ‘compromise’ that removed one minor penalty but left the remaining six penalties in the legislation and made no other substantive changes or considered the aforementioned Massachusetts model. Lawmakers in the Senate responded to this faux compromise by sustaining the veto by a vote of 29-17-1.

Thank those legislators who voted to sustain the Governor’s veto. The advocacy groups continue to reject compromise and have vowed to re-introduce the legislation next year.

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