Asking too much: Is salary history fair game?
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:
A story detailing some of the country’s more prominent salary history legislation, written by attorney and pay equity expert Cheryl Pinarchick.
Jurisdiction-specific articles on new salary ban legislation from The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), including an FAQ for those in California, a guide to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, and briefings on bans in Delaware and Oregon.
The SHRM’s in-depth story considering the ban’s effect on salary negotiations, with commentary from a range of HR pros and steps to consider taking in your own organization.
A compelling list of reasons why nonprofits should “abolish” the pay history question (including the point that it punishes anyone who puts mission over money), delivered with typical candor by speaker, blogger, and nonprofit CEO Vu Le.
Marc Schultz is communications editor at Work for Good.