Montgomery County council member Evan Glass (D-At Large) introduced a measure that would keep the county from considering salary history for new employees. (Cheryl Diaz Meyer/For The Washington Post)

Montgomery County council member Evan Glass introduced a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the county from asking new hires for their salary histories, saying the practice leads to women earning less than men doing the same jobs.

Glass (D-At Large), who took office in December, said he was prompted to write the bill after he began assembling his staff and found out the county’s human resources department was asking employees for past pay stubs to set their salaries.

Since women on average earn less than men, Glass said, “individuals get stuck in a cycle of being undervalued.”

Glass said he then began looking at the county’s database of employees and found pay inequities between men and women who hold county jobs at the same level. The lone man among 13 Program Manager I positions in the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, earns more than any of the 12 women in that position, even though several of the women have been with the department longer.

“Who would have thought here in 2019 in progressive Montgomery County we would be dealing with this issue of pay equity?” Glass said at a news conference Tuesday, flanked by fellow council members, county workers and union representatives. “But here we are.”

The bill, co-sponsored by the rest of the all-Democratic, nine-member council, would keep the county from relying on salary history when determining starting pay — although it would not keep a prospective employee from voluntarily offering that information.

It also would require the county executive to examine the effect of similar laws in other places and produce reports on the gender gap in pay among county workers every two years. County Executive Marc Elrich (D) supports the legislation, his spokesman said Tuesday.

A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for March 26.

Other jurisdictions already have salary history bans in effect. The District has a policy prohibiting its agencies from asking applicants for salary histories, while California bans all employers from requesting the information from job applicants.

Andrea Johnson, senior counsel for state policy with the National Women’s Law Center, said she believed Montgomery would be the first jurisdiction in Maryland to enact a ban on examining pay history, although similar legislation is before the General Assembly in Annapolis.

“We hope Montgomery County taking this important step today to stop the use of salary history will help set the course for the rest of the state to do the same,” Johnson said at the news conference.

The state legislation, which is pending in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, would prohibit public and private employers from requesting wage history from job applicants, and would allow applicants to ask to see the wage range for the job.

The Senate’s finance committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation on Thursday.

Council president Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) said the council had in prior years passed legislation to try to address equity issues among the county’s contractors and subcontractors, but added it was “disappointing” to find no one had been analyzing gender disparities among county workers.

“This bill begins to shine a light and hopefully begins to correct something within our own county government,” Navarro said.

Glass’s bill would apply only to employees hired after the legislation took effect.

And while the county’s practice of examining salary history might not entirely explain the gender gap in pay, Glass said it still needed to be addressed.

“The data presented today shows that this is a deep and systemic problem that transcends individual resume differences,” Glass said. “The data doesn’t lie. And while this legislation can't cure it all, it is one more way to correct the problem.”

Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.