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Biden moves to shrink gender pay gap for federal employees

The president is also signing an executive order on enhancing pay equity and transparency for federal contractors.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference, in Washington on Monday.Patrick Semansky / AP

WASHINGTON — The White House announced Tuesday that it will propose a new regulation to prevent federal agencies from taking a job applicant's salary history into consideration in the hiring process.

The Office of Personnel Management plans to issue the proposed regulation, which stems from an executive order President Joe Biden signed last year aimed at improving pay equity for women and minorities, senior administration officials said.

"Banning the use of prior salary history can help break the cycle of past arbitrary and potentially discriminatory pay that can follow women and workers of color from job to job, entrenching gender and racial pay gaps over time," the White House said in its announcement.

Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to lead a virtual summit marking Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, which will feature administration officials, CEOs and athletes, including current and former members of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Biden is also signing an executive order that directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to consider boosting pay equity and transparency for federal contractors. That includes "limiting or prohibiting" federal contractors from seeking and considering information about job applicants’ and employees’ existing or past compensation in the hiring process, the White House said.

As part of these new steps, an office within the Department of Labor is issuing a new directive clarifying that federal contractors are expected to conduct an audit of their compensation practices each year.

"Conducting these pay equity audits helps address and prevent pay disparities based on gender, race, or ethnicity," the White House said.

Several states have enacted laws banning employers from asking prospective employees about their previous salaries. Massachusetts became the first state to implement such a measure in 2016.