Changes for Cincinnati Business Owners

In 2019, Cincinnati’s City Council voted 6-2 to ban employers located within the city limits from asking job candidates about their prior wage history in an effort to reduce wage disparities between men, women, and minorities in the Cincinnati area.

The new ordinance will take effect on March 13, 2020. The employers affected are those with a business located within the City of Cincinnati that employs 15 or more employees.

Under the new ordinance, employers have additional limits on what they cannot ask job candidates during the interview process. Specifically, employers cannot:

  • Ask about a candidate’s salary history or request reports or other information to determine or verify salary histories, such as prior or current wages, benefits or other compensation; or
  • Rely on candidates’ salary histories to screen candidates, make hiring decisions or set compensation.

Alternatively, employers may:

  • Inform the candidate of the salary range or anticipated salary for the position;
  • Discuss with the candidate whether he or she has salary expectations without asking about the candidate’s salary history directly; and
  • Ask the candidate to provide evidence of productivity, such as revenue reports.

Additionally, if a candidate is extended a conditional offer of employment and he or she requests the salary range for the position, the employer must provide the candidate with that information.

While employers who violate this ordinance will not be criminally penalized, affected candidates have a private cause of action against the employer.

Similar ordinances have been enacted in other cities, and some have faced legal challenges for lack of evidence that there is a connection between gender-based wage disparities and employers asking about salary histories. However, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Women’s Fund provided peer-reviewed research showing such causation in the City of Cincinnati, which serves evidence of the need for the ban.

Before this ordinance takes effect, Cincinnati employers are encouraged to seek legal counsel and to do the following:

  • Train hiring staff and human resources on how to handle salary negotiations and a candidate’s voluntary disclosure of his or her salary history;
  • Review job application forms and interview questions to make sure they do not solicit salary information from candidates;
  • Create a framework for how to ask candidates for evidence of productivity; and
  • Be prepared to provide the salary range for the position to candidates after an offer is extended if candidates request it.

More cities and states are expected to pass similar ordinances. As a result, employers should remain up-to-date on such ordinances that affect their businesses and proactively create a framework for how to set compensation for new hires, absent job candidates’ salary history.

If you have questions regarding business law, feel free to contact Elliott Stapleton for more information.

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