Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Massachusetts became the first state to ban employers from posing this question to job candidates back in 2016. Since then, 17 other states and as many local jurisdictions have passed versions of the ban, including New Jersey, whose law will go into effect in January; Illinois, which took effect last month; and Kansas City, Mo., where a ban will go into effect next week.
Why does this matter?
The new laws are designed to protect job seekers — like former me — from receiving starting salaries that are tied to low past salaries. This is mostly aimed at women, and many of the bills directly address equal pay and the gender wage gap. The idea is that if a woman is paid less from the get-go, and then limited by her past salary at each subsequent job, it may be impossible for her to catch up.
“This bill provides a means of narrowing the wage gap by making it less likely for employers to unintentionally perpetuate the gap by basing salary offers for new hires on their previous salary,” New Jersey Assemblywoman Joann Downey said of her state’s bill, which she sponsored. She added that the practice had a disproportionate effect on women.
Is the ban active in my state?
HR Dive, a human resources news and analysis site, keeps a list of state and local governments that have salary history bans on the docket. (You can check the status of your state or locality here.) Salary.com also has a list of state and local bans.
Some states have passed bans that won’t go into effect until 2020 or later. For example, Colorado signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act into law earlier this year, but it won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2021.
Each bill is also a little different. While Alabama’s law doesn’t ban the question outright, it does prohibit employers from refusing to “interview, hire, promote, or employ” any job applicant who declines to answer. In California, not only is the question banned, but employers are also required to answer if an applicant asks about a pay range. Other versions may ban not only employers’ questions about compensation history but also those about benefits like a 401(k).