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“How Much Do You Earn?” Stop. Don’t Go There.

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It’s long been said that the subject of money and earnings is not a suitable conversation topic for polite company. Yet it’s historically been a permissible one during the hiring process. Well, those days are numbered, or downright over in some places. Employers (and those who help them hire) need to be aware that salary history inquiries are being outlawed in various parts of the country.

You can no longer ask...

Here in New York City where 24 Seven’s headquarters are located, since this past October 31st, employers cannot ask job applicants questions about or make statements intended to solicit information about their current or prior earnings and benefits. Employers also cannot ask the applicant’s former or current employer for that information or search public records to ferret it out. Breaking these rules can lead to paying damages, fines and other consequences. So if salary history questions have long been a standard interview question or a must-complete section of a job application, why all the attention now? One of the goals of these new laws is to narrow the gender wage gap. The idea is that if a woman is already getting paid less than a man, the pay inequity will continue if her salary for a new role is based on her previous, unequal pay. The aim instead is to have employers proactively determine a pay range for roles without consideration of an applicant’s salary history – relying instead on a combination of merit, experience level, market factors and competitive benchmarks.

What about recruiters?

As a representative working on behalf of the hiring company, can they skirt the issue? Probably not. For example, according to a news story in the SFGate about this change in California, “the new bill goes further by prohibiting employers, ‘orally or in writing, personally or through an agent,’ from asking about an applicant’s previous pay.” Similar versions of the No Salary History legislation have been adopted (or will soon be law) in several cities and states so far. The non-exhaustive list includes New York City, Philadelphia, California, San Francisco, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and Puerto Rico. What’s allowed and isn’t varies by area, so it’s important to learn what applies in the states or cities where you might hire.

Becoming the new norm

While there have been employers who have opposed these types of laws, most employment and staffing industry professionals believe it’s just a matter of time before such changes are more common than not. So even if you’re in an area where this has yet to become law, it’s probably a good idea to start getting used to NOT asking these kinds of questions. And if you have any doubt about whether it is a law where you are, doubt means don’t – err on the side of caution and don’t ask. Or you can give us a call and we can help you navigate the hiring process.