A bill that makes it illegal in most cases to try to find out the salary history of a potential employee is now law.
Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill Thursday afternoon. The new legislation makes it illegal in most cases to inquire about a potential employee's salary history, or to seek out that information, until after an offer of employment has been made.
Violations of the legislation would result in a fine of between $100 and $500 per violation.
It's not uncommon to ask for salary history even at the earliest stages of a job application - but the bill's lead sponsor, Falmouth Democratic Sen. Cathy Breen, says the practice hurts women more and more as they move through their careers.
"If a person goes into a job interview and is beginning to negotiate a salary, and the employer inquires about past pay, then they could be either deliberately, or certainly not deliberately, perpetuating the pay gap."
Breen says over time, the difference can mean that women can earn about $400,000 less over their work lives than men. And she says that's an issue for taxpayers as well as employees.
"That really changes what women can save, personally, and what kind of Social Security benefits they can accrue. So with longer lives they end up needing more public assistance."
The National Partnership for Women & Families has estimated that women working full time in Maine in 2017, made 18 percent less than men in comparable jobs - on average, about $7,700.
By prohibiting employers from asking for past salaries, Breen says the new legislation will also help other groups which typically are paid less for comparable employment than able-bodied white men. These groups include both men and women of color, and people with disabilities.