The push to stop employers from asking about salary history is gaining momentum among candidates running for citywide office in Seattle.
City council candidate Teresa Mosqueda unveiled more details of her gender pay equity platform this week, including supporting a prohibition on employers asking about salary history during the application or interview process. Mayoral candidate Cary Moon and Mosqueda's opponent Jon Grant have also called for the ban. Oregon already has a similar prohibition in place. The goal: break the cycle of pay inequity for women and people of color who are often paid less than their white male counterparts.
Mosqueda also proposes new protections against retaliation for workers who ask why they are being paid less. According to data from the Economic Opportunity Institute, white women in Seattle make 75 percent of what white men make, Latinx women make 51 percent of what white men make, and black women make 45 percent.
Mosqueda introduced her gender pay equity plan at a rally this week alongside supporters who have signed on to her open letter about the Seattle Times Editorial Board's endorsement of Grant.
"As women, we know what it’s like to have our professional experience, accomplishments, and credentials questioned, minimized and too often underrated," reads the letter, signed by hundreds of people including Seattle City Council members Sally Bagshaw, Lorena González, Debora Juarez, and Kirsten Harris-Talley.
Along with a ban on asking about salary history, Mosqueda proposes new ordinances to protect workers against retaliation if they "ask why they are being paid less, or why they do not have the same access to job or career opportunities as others." While some federal laws already protect against discrimination, Mosqueda says in an interview it remains "a known, common practice that many workers experience."
Under her proposal, these protections would be handled by Seattle's Office of Labor Standards. She argues a civil investigation through the city's Office of Labor Standards is a more accessible process than attempting to bring a court case against an employer.
The Office of Labor Standards currently has 10 investigators to look into possible violations of the minimum wage, secure scheduling, sick and safe time, sexual harassment protections for hotel workers, and rules against using criminal history in hiring. The process is largely complaint-based and can drag on. This year, the average OLS investigation has taken 352 days to complete, according to OLS data. Mosqueda said she would discuss her proposals with OLS to see if they would need more resources to enforce another law.
"The last thing we want to do is pass another piece of legislation that doesn't have funding for investigations or enforcement," she says.
Mosqueda released two other policy papers this week: One offers more details about her proposal to create city-level health care for immigrants and others who can't get healthcare through Medicaid or Medicare, similar to Healthy San Francisco. Another lays out proposals to support women and minority-owned businesses, including municipal broadband, micro-lending, and support and subsidies for immigrant business owners applying for business licenses.