Columbus will soon join Toledo and Cincinnati in the growing number of states and localities implementing laws related to salary history, or so-called wage-gap laws.

Effective Mar. 1, 2024, Chapter 2335 of Ordinance No. 0709-2023 makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for Columbus employers to inquire about an applicant’s salary history, screen applicants based on their wage history, or rely solely on salary history when deciding whether to offer an applicant employment or when determining their compensation. The ordinance also prohibits retaliation against applicants for not disclosing their salary history.

Which employers are covered under the salary history ban?

  • Employers with 15 or more employees in Columbus.
  • Job placement, referral and other employment agencies operating on behalf of a covered employer.
  • The City of Columbus.

Which applicants and jobs are covered under the salary history ban?

  • Any person applying for employment to be performed in Columbus and whose applications will be solicited, received, processed or considered in Columbus.
  • Whether the applicant is interviewed and the location of the interview, if any, are immaterial.
  • Applicants applying for temporary and seasonal work, part-time work, contracted work, contingent work, work on commission or work through temporary employment agency.

When do the prohibitions not apply?  

  • Federal, state and local governmental employers, other than the City of Columbus.
  • Actions taken by an employer pursuant to federal, state or local law that authorizes reliance on salary history to determine employee’s compensation.
  • Applicants for internal transfer or promotion with current employer.
  • An applicant’s voluntary disclosure of salary history information.
  • Employee positions for which salary, benefits or other compensation are determined pursuant to procedures established by collective bargaining.
  • Applicants who are re-hired by an employer within three years of applicant’s termination date, provided employer already has past salary history data.
  • If employer’s attempt to verify non-salary related information by conducting a background check results in disclosure of pay history information, provided employer does not rely solely upon such information for determining salary during hiring process.

Importantly, the ordinance does not prohibit Columbus employers from inquiring about an applicant’s expectations about salary, benefits and other compensation. Applicants alleging a violation of the ban can file a complaint with the Community Relations Commission within six months of the alleged unlawful practice. Employers who violate the ban may be subject to civil penalties.

Key takeaways

Employers should take care to train their front-line managers, Human Resources professionals and recruiters tasked with communicating with prospective hires, conducting interviews and/or making hiring decisions to ensure compliance with the ordinance (and other laws related to pay transparency/pay disclosure)  – particularly given the rise of remote work and employers’ expansive geographical footprints.

Do not hesitate to contact Porter Wright if you have questions about the Columbus ordinance, other pay-related laws or other labor and employment issues.