Can Employers Ask About My Salary History?

A job applicant may voluntarily disclose their salary information to a potential employer if they wish. An employer is prohibited from asking, looking up, or prompting this information. An employer may use the voluntarily disclosed information to set a salary offer; however, that information may not be used to justify a pay difference between current employees performing substantially similar work.

Why Are Employers Prohibited From Asking For This Information?

The purpose of this ban is to reduce the wage inequality between men and women. According to recent studies, the pay gap is still an issue, with women earning 80% of what men did for the same roles in 2016. When race is taken into account, Latino and African American women earned only 55 or 60% of a white man’s wages for the same roles.

Despite the Equal Pay Act laws, the gender pay gap persists. The Act is constantly amended to prohibit certain practices which unintentionally cause wage inequality. Legislators have found that allowing previous salaries to be taken into account means that wage inequality tends to follow women from job to job.

What Is Prohibited?

The ban on salary history prohibits potential employers from asking about:

  • Current or past salaries
  • Compensation
  • Benefits

If an applicant tells a potential employer this information, an employer can use it to set their salary offer.

Should I Answer Questions About Salary History?

An employer can ask about what your salary expectations or requirements are for a position. If you reside in a state that has a salary history ban (check with local government) then you can refuse questions about your salary.

If there is no salary history ban in your state, there are other creative ways to sidestep the question. You can ask the salary range for the position, and determine whether your current salary is in that range. You could also ask to postpone salary discussions until the interview when you have had a chance to learn more about the position and discuss your worth.

Employers sometimes insist on knowing the current salary early in the application process. Try one of the above tactics, or your other options are to be truthful about salary and benefits package, or decline to answer.

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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