Pritzker signs law barring employers from asking applicants’ pay history

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CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker signed a new law intended to help women in the workforce and close the gender pay gap Wednesday at the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens.

Pay discrimination based on sex has been banned since the early 1960s in the U.S., but on average, women still earn considerably less than men. The new law tries to address that by banning employers from asking job applicants how much they made in previous roles.

"We are declaring that one’s history should not dictate one’s future," Pritzker said Wednesday. "It’s no longer acceptable to wring quality work out of capable women at a discounted rate."

The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits sex discrimination in pay, but supporters of the Illinois law say research shows loopholes help perpetuate pay discrimination.

On average, women in Illinois earn just 79 cents to every dollar a white man earns, according to Wendy Pollock, Shriver Center on Poverty Law. The gap is even wider for women of color.

"For black women they earn just 63 cents to the dollar, and Latinas earn just 48 cents to the dollar," Pollock said.

In January, the governor had signed an executive order that banned state agencies from asking state job candidates about their previous pay. Despite federal and state laws, the push for equal pay continues.

What's more, State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) said the gender pay gap in Illinois is worse when compared to other parts of the country.

"In the Chicago metropolitan area, white women earn 73 percent of a white man’s salary for the same work," Castro said.

Pay differences can have a particularly strong impact on working mothers, according to Illinois State Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin).

"Half of all households are led by a working mother. When her income is depressed that translates to lower wages for her children and her family," Moeller said.

The World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has also joined the fight for equal pay.

In 2016, the team filed a wage-discrimination complaint arguing women players could expect to earn tens of thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts for the same work.

This week, the U.S. Soccer Federation pushed back in a letter, saying that in fact the Women’s National Team has been paid more than the Men’s Team. But even members of the men’s team dispute this.

Pritzker signed the equal pay bill just steps away from U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner twice vetoed the salary history bill, urging the legislature to incorporate business-friendly amendments. The new law takes effect in 60 days.

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