Q: I’ve heard that some states are passing laws prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary. Will this affect me?
A: The movement is getting off to a slow start, so the short answer is not yet, and maybe not ever. Massachusetts recently passed a law prohibiting such questions, though it doesn’t go into effect until 2018. The California legislature passed a similar bill late last year, but it was vetoed by the governor. That said, you can probably expect to see more laws like this being proposed around the nation.
Currently, we consider it a best practice not to ask about salary history. Although this information may provide data points that inform an employer’s salary offers, asking about past salary ultimately can contribute to the wage gap between men and women, and between minorities and non-minorities. It also may lead employers to shy away from applicants who are actually the best fit for the job, either because they assume the applicant’s salary requirements will be too high or because they believe the applicant’s lower wages indicate lesser skill or potential. The question’s usefulness is also limited by the ease of exaggeration and the different costs of living across the country. Ultimately, we recommend that you do not ask potential employees how much they’ve made in the past.
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