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Why NYC’s Pay Transparency Law Matters for Hourly Workers (Even if You’re Not in New York)

If you’ve ever browsed listings for remote jobs, or jobs that can be performed in multiple states, you may have come across an odd caveat at the end of the posting like: “This position is not open to applicants residing in or otherwise based in the State of Colorado.” 

The hiring managers for these positions don’t have a random grudge against Coloradoans; this caveat comes as a result of Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which was signed into law in 2019. The act aims to combat wage discrimination by creating a more transparent process. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to list the minimum and maximum pay for all job openings, and not disclosing the pay range may result in a fine of up to $10,000. 

For employers that don't want to disclose the pay range, the workaround is to skip over Colorado entirely in the hiring process. If you’re a job seeker in Colorado, it can be a significant disadvantage, especially for remote roles. Being excluded from eligibility based on the state where you live is arbitrary and unfair. And job-seekers are taking note; the website coloradoexcluded.com collects hundreds of job postings from companies who would rather exclude potential workers than share a pay range. 

At 5.759 million people, Colorado represents just 1.7% of the U.S. population. This spring, New York City may pass a similar law that requires employers to post salary ranges, which would more than double the number of workers and employers impacted by these laws. 

NYC’s pay transparency law, explained

Under the new law, which is similar to Colorado’s current law, employers in New York City would be required to include the minimum and maximum starting salary for any job listing. The law should go into effect in May 2022, though it could be delayed or gutted. If the proposed law is changed, the implementation would be pushed to November 2022. 

According to the most recent information, there are some uncertainties in the current bill. For example, it does not define the term “salary”. Legal experts say the lack of definition means that this will likely apply to all salary types, including hourly workers (but not temporary jobs). 

If you’re based in New York City, the implications of this law are obvious: any job posting will include a pay range. Even if you’re not in New York, this law may have an effect on your job search. If you’re considering applying to a role outside of New York with an employer that also has job postings in New York City, you’ll be able to look up this information. Some factors may change the compensation by state–for instance, the cost of living may be higher in NYC, leading to a higher pay range–but this information can still be used as a helpful reference point. 

Yes, you can discuss wages at work 

In April, a viral post (which has since been removed) on the r/antiwork subreddit showed a photo of a sign in a break room at a gym in Frankfort, Kentucky. “Effective immediately, conversing about wages (both on duty and off duty) is strictly forbidden. This is considered proprietary information and as such, it is protected legally,” read the sign. “If you are overheard speaking (OR LISTENING TO!!) a conversation in which wages are discussed, you will receive disciplinary action up to and including termination.” 

There’s nothing legal about the sign; employers can’t stop their employees from discussing their salary with colleagues. According to the National Labor Relations Board, any policy or practice that prohibits discussion of wages is unlawful. 

That said, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever point-blank asked your coworker how much they’re making; if you have, we’d bet the conversation was a bit… awkward. Workplace conversations around pay still hold a strong taboo in many workplaces. And unfortunately, pay secrecy helps wage-based discrimination and inequity thrive. 

This can be demonstrated in the gender pay gap: According to a 2020 study of full- and part-time workers, women earn, on average, 84% of what men earn. We’d love to write something about progress here, but the numbers show that this gap has remained steady over the past 15 years. Something needs to change. Could pay transparency laws in more states make a difference? 

How pay transparency laws empower workers

The intent of pay transparency laws is to increase equity for employees. Without transparency around wages, pay disparities are harder to uncover. A published and public pay range on a job posting protects employees by providing them with a starting point on salary range information, putting more power in the hands of the workers (which we’re all about!). 

When employers are able to obscure pay information, they can unfairly leverage this power to the disadvantage of the employee. If you’re interviewing for a job without pay transparency laws, you’re forced to take your best guess on what you should be paid. Something as important as compensation shouldn’t be a guessing game, which is why Snagajob’s job postings include an estimated pay range based on publicly available information. 

As an hourly worker, it’s important to know your rights and stay informed on laws that may impact your work. While pay transparency laws won’t fix equity gaps entirely, many experts believe that they’re a step in the right direction, and that we’ll see similar laws pass in states across the country. If you’re not sure what laws are in effect where you live, here’s an article that lists pay transparency laws by state. 

Brittany Jezouit |
Brittany (she/her) writes content for Snagajob, helping hourly workers and businesses alike succeed. Her first job was brewing coffee and toasting bagels at a bakery.