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Salary histories will remain a viable topic of conversation during job interviews in Illinois after Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) nixed legislation that would have limited employer questions on previous earnings.
For the second time in two years, Rauner Sept. 21 vetoed a bill prohibiting employers from screening job applicants based on their salary histories. The legislation (House Bill 4163) was championed by women’s groups and unions as a strategy for narrowing gender-based wage disparities.
H.B. 4163 closely resembled H.B. 2462, which passed the Legislature last year but collapsed under Rauner’s veto pen in August 2017. The House overrode Rauner’s veto last November, but the bill fell seven votes short in the Senate.
In a veto message to the General Assembly, Rauner said the revised legislation didn’t address his initial misgivings and ignored his suggestion that Illinois embrace an approach enacted in Massachusetts.
A key difference between H.B. 4163 and the Massachusetts Pay Equity Law is the provision of a “safe harbor” for employers. Under the law, employers able to demonstrate reasonable progress toward closing gender-based wage disparities can use a self-evaluation process as an affirmative defense to any potential legal challenges involving salary history.
“My position has not changed—I am committed to eliminating the gender wage gap and I strongly support wage equality,” Rauner wrote. “I noted in my prior veto message that Massachusetts already has established a best-in-the-country approach to the issue of employers inquiring about salary history. I recommended that Illinois model its legal regime on Massachusetts’ model.”
H.B. 4163 would have amended the state’s Equal Pay Act by prohibiting employers from: screening job applicants based on wage history; requiring that an applicant’s prior wages satisfy minimum or maximum criteria; and requesting an applicant to disclose prior wage history as a condition of being interviewed or considered. The measure would have barred employers from seeking wage history information from previous employers.
In addition, the bill created a private right of action against employers violating the proposed law, allowing job applicants to seek compensatory and punitive damages.
Sen. Cristina Castro (D), a key sponsor of the bill, blasted Rauner. “The governor has never been a friend of the working class or of women, so a veto of a bill meant to offer protections to working-class women definitely fits his style.”
It wasn’t clear whether proponents would mount a veto override campaign during the November veto session. H.B. 4163 passed the House by a veto-proof majority, but not the Senate. H.B. 4163 passed the House in February by a vote of 87-24. The measure passed the Senate May 29 by a vote of 31-16.
Supporters may wait to see if J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic candidate for governor, beats Rauner in the November election. Pritzker, who has supported equal pay protections, called Rauner’s veto “shameful.”
“It is long past time women receive equal pay for equal work, but in 2018, Illinois has a governor who disagrees with that basic statement of equality,” Pritzker said in a statement. “By amendatory vetoing this critical piece of legislation that would help fight wage inequality in this state, Rauner has yet again proven he has no interest in standing with Illinois women.”
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