Academic Verification

Employee handbook binders on desk with pen, calculator, and papers | Barada AssociatesJust as business owners are coming to grips with Ban the Box laws, states, counties and cities are passing ordinances banning salary history inquiries. These laws generally restrict hiring firms from inquiring about salary histories or benefit packages. Some also prohibit companies from screening based on prior salaries (e.g. interviewing only those meeting a specific salary threshold).

Recently, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and Puerto Rico enacted such laws, and California has a law that prohibits salary inquiries in certain situations. Similarly, New York City and Philadelphia have laws prohibiting prior salary inquiries, although as of this writing, Philadelphia’s was being held up by a legal challenge.

Why This Matters to You

Pay history bans are part of the general trend towards protecting job applicants from unfair discrimination. Proponents argue that applicants should be offered compensation packages based on traditional hiring criteria—their “fit” for the job description and the company itself, as well as their academic experience and work histories. The fact that a worker was underpaid at an earlier job, proponents argue, should not influence the current decision.

Opponents of these laws point out that salary histories are part of the total job experience for a worker, and an unusually low salary for a particular position may indicate hidden deficiencies, such as less competency than others in the same position.

It’s worth noting here that these laws generally do not prohibit employers from discussing and negotiating salary expectations, as long as the employer avoids asking for the applicant’s compensation history. In most cases, after an employment offer has been made and accepted, and compensation terms spelled out, employers can confirm prior salary histories for their records. Because this situation is in flux, we recommend all hiring firms consult with a qualified employment law attorney to determine what salary history restrictions are in effect where they operate.

Barada has always held that hiring should be based on a total picture of the candidate, created not only through direct candidate evaluation but also with extensive reference interviews, background checks and other hiring best practices. Organizations that develop a comprehensive profile of a prospective employee should not need prior salary histories to determine the individual’s merit and appropriateness for a particular position.