Staffing Resources

What You Can and Cannot Ask About Salary History

May 16th, 2019

Before you make a decision about a candidate, you might want to know what they’ve made previously and what they’re anticipating from a position at your company. This information can benefit your search, but such actions can be seen as discriminatory. Instead of flat out asking about salary history, make sure you’re aware of laws in your area.

Cities including New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New Orleans prohibit all questions related to a candidate’s salary history. In the state of New York, you cannot ask applicants for state organizations but new legislation for private companies is being considered. California doesn’t ban questions but forbids it from being a reason to underpay someone. Nearly 20 other states are considering bans on questions about past salary, and laws have been introduced at the federal level. Even though they haven’t passed, it might be time to adjust your strategy.

Discriminatory pay structures

There are a number of reasons why asking for a previous salary can lead to accusations of discrimination. For one, it’s a known issue that women make less than men, and seeing a women’s salary and offering her something comparable that’s less than her male counterparts at your company could lead to trouble.

Another form of discrimination comes from excluding a candidate based on your thoughts about your salary offering. If you’re going to offer less than they’ve made, and then remove them from candidacy because you assume they wouldn’t take the offer, you’re acting in a discriminatory manner.

Candidates can refuse

With new laws in place and being practiced daily, it’s not unlikely that a candidate will refuse to provide the information. If you ask in an application, they may leave it blank or draw dashes to indicate they’ve seen it but won’t answer. In some cases, they may provide parts of their income without explaining all the sources.

What can you ask?

Before answering this, look for laws in your city and state. This is the best way to keep you safe. If there’s nothing specific, make sure you accept their right of refusal and refuse to discriminate or pay them less based on what they made before. Regardless of their answers, your goal as an employer should always be fair compensation.

 

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