States With Pay Transparency Laws That Fight Back Against Wage Discrimination

From interview red flags to battling imposter syndrome, the job hunt can be absolutely brutal. However, the process can be even worse for marginalized groups, and this is especially true when it comes to pay. On average, women earn just 82% of what men earn. With that being said, if you've been on the job market lately, you might have noticed the recent growing trend of pay transparency. Pay transparency is when an applicant or employee knows the compensation for a position they are applying to. It can help reduce pay inequities among coworkers which, in turn, can have a huge impact on discriminatory wage behaviors that adversely affect women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.

If you're asking yourself why this is a recent trend instead of the norm, the answer is complicated. Only eight states have wage transparency laws, and four of those states only enacted their laws in 2023. While there is considerable variety among these laws depending on the state, the core of these laws requires employers to disclose the salary or salary range of a listed position. States can require employers to disclose information either directly in the original job posting, during the hiring process, or upon request to job seekers.

States with current pay transparency laws

Maryland became the first state in the U.S. to enact a pay transparency law in October 2020. However, their law is on the conservative side in that employers are only required to provide salary information upon request from the applicant. This can put undue strain on an applicant to request pay and benefits information from a potential employer. Connecticut and Rhode Island have similar laws that place the burden on applicants to request pay and benefits information.

California, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and (beginning in September 2023) New York all require employers to include the salary of a position openly within a position posting. Among these states, there are subtle differences in what information must be included. For instance, California employers are required to provide the pay scale but are not required to provide information about benefits or additional compensation. Meanwhile, Colorado requires "a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant," in addition to compensation information. Each law also tackles pay transparency for current employees differently, with some requiring pay transparency upon promotion or transfer and some allowing for employees to request their position's pay range at any time.

States (and cities) considering pay transparency laws

Fifteen states have introduced pay transparency legislation and are currently considering new laws. These include Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Additionally, some larger cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are also considering pay transparency legislation that could help employees and applicants fight wage discrimination.

Some cities that do not yet have pay transparency laws at the state level have already implemented pay transparency laws within their city jurisdiction. New York City implemented pay transparency requirements for employers in late 2022, ahead of the state legislation. Cincinnati, Ohio, passed legislation in 2020 that not only requires pay ranges on job postings but also prohibits employers from asking about an applicant's salary history. 

It is also important to note that both Connecticut and Maryland have legislation on the books to strengthen their current pay transparency laws. Both of these states are looking to remove the requirement that an applicant must request the salary range from a potential employer and instead shift to a model like California and Colorado in which the salary range must be included in the position posting. While many marginalized groups still face an uphill battle with job hunting imposter syndrome, self-advocacy, and discrimination, it is hopeful to know that states, and even some cities, are working to fight back against wage discrimination.