New Hawaii law bars employers from asking about past pay

HILO (AP) — A new Hawaii law prevents employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories.

The law that went into effect New Year’s Day aims to address wage gaps among different demographics in the state, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The law signed by Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, in July prohibits employers from using the prospective employees’ prior pay rates to determine their new pay and benefits.

If employers learn about an applicant’s wage history through a background check, they still cannot use that information in determining pay. Employers also cannot punish or prevent employees from openly discussing their wages with other workers.

The new requirements will force businesses to have a set salary in mind for a position regardless of the applicant, said Judi Mellon, director of the East Hawaii Small Business Development Center.

“Some people might see it as taking away bargaining power, but I don’t,” Mellon said.

The law will require businesses to update hiring practices, Mellon said. It likely won’t affect small businesses much because they typically don’t have enough employees working the same jobs for wage discrepancies to be a concern, she said.

“It isn’t going to have a big effect on small businesses here except that they have to be aware of the changes,” Mellon said.

The law does not specify penalties for businesses that fail to comply.

But violations will be under the enforcement jurisdiction of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, which handles employer discrimination issues, said Tom Heinrich, a legislative aide for state Sen. Brian Taniguchi.