Asking about salary history when hiring

Federal law does not prohibit asking a job applicant about their salary history and it has been a common question on job applications. But that is changing with recent rules passed by New York City and other jurisdictions.

The ban on asking for salary history comes from the fact that women and minorities have historically been paid less. It is the opinion of the proponents that eliminating the question will help to close the wage gap.  I would add that older workers may also benefit by not having to justify their willingness to take a pay reduction or lateral move.

But the question may still linger as an elephant in the room. And titles may lead to presumptions about acceptable salary offers.  Some job applicants may choose to volunteer the information while others are concerned that they could be offered a lower pay rate if they volunteer their history.  Conversely, employers would like to know if the applicant’s historical rates and expectations are consistent with their compensation structure.

Employers are best served by not asking and extending consistent offers to all applicants that meet their criteria for a role. Applicants and employers can engage in a healthy discussion after the offer is made about their salary and benefit expectations.  These conversations provide excellent feedback to both applicants and employers.

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