New bill would ban employers from asking about job candidates’ salary histories

DOVER — Lawmakers marked “Equal Pay Day” Tuesday by introducing legislation that would bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories.

The measure, announced in a news conference and sponsored by all 13 women in the General Assembly, seeks to ensure women are paid the same as men, the legislators said.

The American Association of University Women claims that women in Delaware make 11 percent less than men.

“Today is about evening the playing field,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, said.

The proposal, introduced as House Bill 1, follows a package of 2015 bills related to pay and women’s issues. Those proposals made it illegal for state contractors to pay women less than men, for employers to prohibit employees from discussing their pay and for companies to discriminate against their workers based on reproductive health care decisions.

“I long for the day when equal pay day will no longer be a topic of conversation but a reality,” said Penny Deiner, president of the American Association of University Women of Delaware.

Rep. Longhurst claimed Delaware women can lose nearly $400,000 over a 40-year career due to the wage gap.

However, studies show the gender pay gap stems, in part, from men being more willing to ask for higher pay and from women taking time off for child care, leaving the workforce and then returning with gaps in their employment record and less experience in particular types of  jobs.

Other bills

Legislation to reinstate the death penalty, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court in August, was officially filed Tuesday, eight days after it was announced.

“It is impossible to quantify a crime not committed, but I believe the threat of capital punishment has altered criminal behavior and saved lives,” Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, said in a statement. “The reforms our bill will apply will restore an aspect of the Delaware Code that I believe deters crimes and protects the public.”

The bill has bipartisan support.

Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, said in a statement last week he would consider “supporting a death penalty that applied only to those convicted of killing a member of law enforcement.”

• A bill to raise the minimum automobile liability limits, which have not been changed since 1983, was also submitted Tuesday.

The proposal, which is supported by legislators of both parties, would increase the limit for injury or death of one person from $15,000 to $30,000, for injury or death of two people from $30,000 to $60,000 and for property damage from $5,000 to $10,000.

• The House passed a bill that would move the state’s primary election from September to April. Delaware’s presidential primary is currently held in April.

In years with a presidential election, the primary would take place on the same day, saving about $1 million. The change would take effect in 2020.

Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, warned the proposal could lead to officeholders who lose the primary to stop doing their duties well before they actually leave office, but the bill passed 34-6, with one representative absent.

A nearly identical bill was successful in the House last year but failed in the Senate.

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