It is now illegal in New York City for employers to ask prospective employees for their salary histories, ending what officials are calling part of a systematic cycle that keeps women and people of color from earning equal pay.

The City Council passed the bill back in April and the law went into effect yesterday, following an executive order signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last November that banned city agencies from asking for salary histories during the job application process. Because women typically make less than men—in NYC, the median income for a woman is $32,200, while the median income for a man is $37,700—it's harder for women to obtain higher-paying positions if they're required to provide their past salaries in job applications. This is particularly true for women of color, who tend to make even less than white women.

"Women and people of color deserve to be paid what they’re worth, not held back by their current or previous salary," Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis said in a statement. "Today’s law will enable job seekers to negotiate a fair salary based on their skills and will help break the cycle of income inequality that has been so prevalent in the workforce for so long."

Per the new law, private and public sector employers will not be able to ask prospective employees about their current or prior earnings or benefits, ask applicants' past or present employers for salary histories, or search public records for applicants' salary histories. Applicants are permitted to share their past salaries voluntarily, but employers cannot use that information to decide their new compensation.

Similar laws have been enacted in Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon and California, as well as in Philadelphia and, for city employees, in Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

In conjunction with the new law, the NYC Commission on Human Rights has advice and a FAQ for job applicants who may face illegal inquiries about their salary histories.