Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
FILE - Mayor Jackie Biskupski speaks during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. In celebration of the first day of Women's History Month on Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski signed a new gender pay equity policy for city employees.

SALT LAKE CITY — In celebration of the first day of Women's History Month on Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski signed a new gender pay equity policy for city employees.

The policy, which requires Salt Lake City's human resources department to conduct regular audits on gender pay equity, went into effect upon the mayor's signature — which was met with applause from dozens of female employees at City Hall.

"With this policy, Salt Lake City will no longer allow systemic discrimination and historic pay disparity to impact future opportunities," Biskupski said.

Biskupski cited a recent report that found women working for Salt Lake City government are paid 93 percent of what men are paid in the same job.

"This is much better than the state average of 70 percent," the mayor said, but we must and we can gain equity in pay for women."

Under the policy, Salt Lake City Corp.'s pay decisions — including hiring, promotions and pay increases — cannot be based on a person's gender, and requires the city's human resources department to evaluate gender pay equity among all employees with regular audits.

The policy also keeps interviewers in the hiring process from asking about an applicant's current or past salary history.

"Inquiring about an individual’s past salary has historically been a cause of gender pay inequity,” said Julio Garcia, the city's human resources director. “Because women have historically been paid less than men, basing salary decisions on this information, rather than on a ‘similar pay for similar work’ philosophy, perpetuates a cycle of gender pay inequity.”

City Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall said she was not only motivated to advocate for a city gender pay policy because of Utah being the fourth worse state in the nation for gender pay equality, but also because of her grandmother, who lived as a single women and worked until retirement while living off of even less than her male counterparts than today's women do.

"The inequity isn't just here today; we each think about it through the histories of our own families and loved ones," Mendenhall said. "Time is right for us to press for gender equity."

Mendenhall then challenged every city council in the state to evaluate their own internal equity issues and take action like Salt Lake City.

"The list of excuses and the disparity is long and dubious, behaviors are entrenched, but no longer do we wait for simple parity on all fronts," the councilwoman continued. "Equal pay for equal work, it's that simple."

Biskupski listed the names of several women leaders in Salt Lake City government, applauding them for setting an example for hard-working women who deserve equal pay.

They included Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer, who in 2016 became the city's first female public utilities director in over 140 years.

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"The most important thing to me is my employees and that they're treated with equity and respect," Briefer said. "This will be something we will be sure to implement in the public work's department."

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Richelle Bradley also applauded the new policy. She said before she became a police officer years ago, she was a single mom of three young children.

"That pay disparity was important, I was supporting three kids," she said. "Coming to the police department, even though this had not been implemented, pay was equal — and that was something that was very nice to me. Knowing that other people will get that protection is important."