Asking too much: Is salary history fair game?

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There have long been good reasons to nix interview questions about current and past salary, from their potential to make a candidate uneasy to the case that they perpetuate pay discrimination, made convincingly by the National Women’s Law Center and many others.

The newest reason is arguably the most convincing: It’s increasingly becoming illegal. Since 2016, salary history questions have been subject to bans in six states, six U.S. cities, and Puerto Rico. The largest yet went into effect on Jan. 1, prohibiting every employer in California from seeking or using pay history to determine compensation.

To find out if your jurisdiction has restrictions on salary history queries, check this list maintained by HR Dive, and be sure to bookmark it: It will be updated regularly to reflect the latest developments. The list also links to briefings detailing the particulars of each ban, which can vary widely. For instance, some laws (like New Jersey’s) apply only to government employers; others contain extras, like New York City’s prohibition against researching pay history through public records.

As it’s gained traction in legislatures across the country, a number of thinkers in HR and nonprofits have been writing about this topic and tracking developments. Among the most useful resources so far:

It’s also worth noting that internal bans on the question are on the rise in corporate America, as confirmed at Amazon, Facebook, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and others.

Marc Schultz is communications editor at Work for Good.

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