Salary History: A Question Many Employers Can No Longer Ask
There are many questions that job seekers should be prepared to answer when it comes to the job application and interview, but starting October 31, 2017, there is one question job seekers (at least in New York City) should no longer expect to hear. This question is about one’s pay, particularly as it relates to their current or past salaries received. Once the legislation takes effect, it makes it unlawful for employers in New York City to inquire about an applicant’s salary history. New York City will join Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and California, which have all already (or have plans to) put in place such a law, or at least one similar.
The bill takes aim at discrimination. For the longest time, there has been a gender pay gap. No longer should one’s previous salary dictate or influence how much they make for a future job. Many believe that the new legislation will prompt more employers to put the price on the position rather than the person in relation to past pay.
Employers have typically asked job applicants what they are currently earning in order to help gauge expectations on pay. Pay-wise, job seekers should not feel obliged to answer the question with a direct answer. Not only should the job applicant have the right to keep information on past salary confidential (just as employers can choose to not reveal salary information before a job offer), but it helps to keep things level on both sides when it comes to salary negotiation.
Below, we break down what employers are banned from asking under the new legislation. We then go into how job seekers can address questions related to salary, should they arise during the job search.
What are employers banned from asking under the new legislation?
- Employers may NOT ask or solicit information about your current or prior earnings or benefits.
- Employers may NOT ask your current or former employers about your current or prior earnings or benefits.
- Employers may NOT search public records to learn about your current or prior earnings or benefits.
Loopholes may exist in the legislation. Under the new legislation, employers can:
- Inquire about your “expectations” or requirements for salary, benefit, bonus, or commission structure.
- Inquire about your current or prior earnings or benefits that are authorized or required by federal, state, or local law.
- Verify and consider current or prior earnings or benefits if offered voluntarily and without prompting by the applicant during the interview process.
What should job applicants do if asked about salary after the new legislation is in place?
While employers in New York City may not seek to find out a job applicant’s salary, they can ask about desired salary. Follow these tips to help maintain negotiating power:
- Present a salary range with the low range being your highest salary desired. Research ahead of time to ensure expectations are on target. For additional resources to help with salary research, read: “Find Out How Much You Are Worth to Employers.”
- If the question occurs early in the interview process, you can deflect from the question indicating you’d prefer to learn more about the role first before considering pay. Indicate that you’d gladly talk salary “expectations” later.
- If an employer or recruiter continues to probe about your past salary, you can inform them that you’ve been asked by your current/former employers to keep that information confidential. Most employers will understand when you present it in that manner.
- To report employers who have violated the law, contact the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
Regardless of whether there is legislation banning the asking of one’s salary history or not, what’s important for job seekers is to know their worth. Only with this information will they be able to negotiate in an effective manner that doesn’t undercut their true value. For more tips, read: “How to Handle Putting Salary Requirements in Your Cover Letter.”
The hope is for this new legislation to help with eliminating discrimination and the gender pay gap. Time will tell how effective it is. Of course, job applicants with more specialized skills or experience should also expect to see the higher end of the pay spectrum.
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