Requesting job applicants’ salary histories has been a pretty common practice for employers over the years. Recruiters and hiring managers often use this knowledge to exclude people from the candidate pool, either because the applicant is “too expensive” or their previous salary is so low, hiring managers think the person is poorly qualified or inexperienced.
Businesses have also used previous salary information to calculate new hire compensation—a process that can perpetuate pay disparity between women and men. To address this inequality, several states and municipalities have enacted bans on asking for previous salary information, although laws vary in terms, scope and applicability.
To help employers, we’ve prepared a list of states that have enacted salary history bans, which employers are affected and what the specific legislation entails.
The states and territories that have enacted salary history bans include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
|Alabama||All||Employers can’t decline hiring, interviewing, promoting or employing an applicant if they refuse to provide their pay history.|
|California||All||Employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history. If they already have the information or the applicant volunteers it, that information can’t be used to determine pay. Employers are also required to provide pay scale information if an applicant asks.|
|California||San Francisco||All (incl. contractors and subcontractors)||Employers can’t ask for or use an applicant’s compensation when setting pay. Employers also can’t disclose a current or former employee’s salary without their consent.|
|Colorado||All||Employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history. They also can’t use pay history to set salaries. They can’t discriminate or retaliate against a candidate who doesn’t disclose their pay history.|
|Connecticut||All||Employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history, unless the applicant voluntarily disclosed the information.|
|Delaware||All||Employers can’t screen applicants based on past salary and they can’t ask about compensation history. They can verify salary after extending an offer.|
|District of Columbia||Government agencies||Government agencies can’t ask applicants for their pay history unless it’s brought up by the candidate after an employment offer is extended.|
|Georgia||Atlanta||City agencies||The city can no longer ask for pay history on its applications, in interviews or employment screenings.|
|Hawaii||All (incl. employment agencies)||Employers can’t ask about pay history. They also can’t use that information unless the applicant volunteers it. The law doesn’t apply to internal applicants.|
|Illinois||State agencies||The state can’t ask applicants about pay history.|
|Illinois||All||Employers can’t ask about pay history including benefits or other compensation but they can discuss the applicant’s pay expectations.|
|Illinois||Chicago||City departments||City departments can’t ask for compensation history.|
|Kentucky||Louisville||Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government offices and agencies||City offices can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history.|
|Louisiana||New Orleans||City departments||City offices can’t ask for an applicant’s compensation history. Applicants can provide pay history to negotiate a higher salary after an offer is made.|
|Maine||All||Employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history until a job has been offered.|
|Maryland||All||Employers can provide an applicant with a wage range for the position and can confirm voluntarily provided pay history once an offer of employment is made. Employers cannot retaliate against an applicant that does not voluntarily provide this information.|
|Maryland||Montgomery County||The county can’t use pay history to decide whether to hire an applicant. They also can’t retaliate against or decline to hire a person who refuses to share this information. The county can use pay history to offer a higher salary than initially offered as long as this doesn’t result in unequal pay for equal work and the information was voluntarily disclosed.|
|Massachusetts||All||Employers can’t ask for pay history. They can confirm history if the applicant volunteers or if they’ve extended an offer.|
|Michigan||Private employers||Michigan has banned pay history bans.|
|Michigan||State departments||State offices can’t ask an applicant about their pay history until a conditional employment offer is made. They also can’t ask current or prior employers or search public records to get that information. If salary is already known, it can’t be used to make a hiring decision..|
|Mississippi||Jackson||City offices||City offices can’t ask for pay history.|
|Missouri||All employers with 6+ employees||Employers can’t ask for or use pay history when offering employment or determining salary, benefits or other compensation. They can discuss the applicant’s pay expectations. Prohibitions don’t apply to information disclosed by the applicant.|
|Missouri||Kansas City||City offices||City offices can’t ask for pay history until the person has been hired.|
|Missouri||St. Louis||City offices||City offices can’t ask for salary history or refuse to hire applicants refusing to disclose salary history.|
|Nevada||All employers||Employers cannot ask for pay history or refuse to hire, interview, promote or employ applicants who do not provide it.|
|New Jersey||All||Employers may not screen applicants based on pay history nor require specific pay history to satisfy a minimum or maximum criteria. Employers may confirm pay history after an offer of employment.|
|New York||All state agencies and departments (except Port Authority)||State offices can’t request pay history until after an employment offer is made. If previous compensation is already known, it can’t be used to determine an applicant’s salary.|
|New York||Private employers||Employers can’t ask for pay history. An employer can confirm salary if the applicant gives a pay history to support a higher salary when a job is offered.|
|New York||New York City||All||Employers can’t ask about previous pay or benefits. If they already have that information, they’re can’t use it to set pay.|
|New York||Albany County||All||Employers can’t request past compensation information until after a job offer is made.|
|New York||Suffolk County||All||Employers can’t request past compensation information. They can’t search public records or use known salary information to set pay.|
|New York||Westchester County||All||Employers can’t request past compensation information. They can confirm past pay and use that information in setting pay in certain circumstances.|
|North Carolina||State agencies||State agencies can’t request previous compensation information and can’t use previously obtained salary information to set pay.|
|Ohio||Cincinnati||State and local governments are excluded, with the exception of Cincinnati||Employers can’t ask for compensation history or use known salaries. They’re also required to provide a pay scale for a position if the applicant has received an employment offer.|
|Ohio||Toledo||Employers with 15 or more employees located in the city||Employers can’t ask for pay history. They also can’t require an applicant’s compensation to satisfy minimum or maximum criteria. They can discuss an applicants’ pay expectations.|
|Oregon||All||Employers can’t ask about pay history until an employment offer has been made. They’re also prohibited from using previous salary information to set pay, except for existing employees moving to a new role.|
|Pennsylvania||State agencies||State agencies can’t ask about current compensation or compensation history. Additionally all job postings have to clearly disclose a position’s pay scale and range.|
|Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh||City offices and agencies||City employers can’t ask about prior pay. If they discover the information, they’re prohibited from using it unless the applicant has volunteered it.|
|Pennsylvania||Philadelphia||City offices and agencies||City employers cannot inquire about an applicant’s wage history or retaliate against an applicant for failing to provide wage history. City employers also cannot rely on wage history in determining wages for an employee unless applicant willingly disclosed wage history.|
|Puerto Rico||All||Employers can’t request pay histories, but voluntary salary disclosures made after a job offer has been extended are allowed.|
|Rhode Island||Statewide||All employers||Employers can’t ask for pay history or rely on the information to determine pay. They can confirm and rely on pay history after an offer is made to support a higher wage than initially offered.|
|South Carolina||Columbia||City agencies||The city can’t use pay history unless the applicant voluntarily provides the information.|
|South Carolina||Richland County||County offices||Richland County has deleted the pay history question from its applications, interviews and employment screenings.|
|Utah||Salt Lake City||City offices||City offices can’t ask an applicant about their compensation history. If the applicant voluntarily provides the information, it can’t be used to determine current salary.|
|Vermont||All||Employers can’t request pay histories. If the information is volunteered, they can only confirm after making a job offer.|
|Virginia||All||Compensation history has been removed from state applications.|
|Washington||State agencies||Employers can’t ask for pay history. They can confirm voluntarily disclosed information before or after an offer has been extended. Businesses with 15 or more employees must provide the minimum salary for the position upon applicant request and after an offer has been extended.|
|Wisconsin||All||Wisconsin has banned salary history bans.|
What is the Reason Behind the Salary History Ban?
One of the goals of the compensation history ban is to help close the gender wage gap. Women often start out earning less than men in their careers because they are paid based on their previous salaries, which tend to be lower than men’s salaries. This cycle continues throughout women’s careers, leading to women earning less than men in general, and it starts during the hiring process.
By prohibiting a salary history inquiry, it also protects potential employees from biased hiring practices based on their previous earnings.
In What States is it Illegal to Ask for Salary History?
It is illegal, state-wide, in the following states to ask for compensation history during the hiring process:
Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Also, it is illegal District-wide in the District of Columbia, and Commonwealth-wide in Puerto Rico.
It’s important to also note that Wisconsin and Michigan have ended salary history bans for all employers except state departments. Local governments in those states may not regulate the information that employers can request or require during the hiring process.
Are Employers Allowed to Ask Your Current Salary?
An employer or employment agency cannot ask a job applicant about current or past salary where it is illegal. It has been shown that this information has been used greatly to create such a wide wage gap between men and women.
Some states do not have these laws, so an employer may be able to ask about your current salary expectations. In some cases, the employer will provide the salary range you can expect.
How to Comply With Pay History Ban Laws
There are a couple of things that employers can do in order to comply with pay history ban laws. First, they must refrain from asking about an applicant’s wage history during the interview process. Additionally, if an employer learns that an employee’s pay has been discriminatory in the past, they can take steps to remedy the situation.
If you are an employer, it is important to be aware of pay history ban laws in your area. These laws are designed to protect employees from discrimination, and they can help ensure that everyone has a fair chance at earning a living wage.
Tips on How to Avoid Salary History in Interviews
Be sure and let your hiring managers know about all local laws in effect preventing employers from asking questions related to this topic. You can do this through internal communication or by posting a notice in a common area where all current employees will see it. This will allow you to avoid any fines or penalties that could come from breaking these laws. Additionally, avoid relying on past wages when making salary offers to new employees, as some job applicants will volunteer that information without it being asked.
By taking steps to comply with these laws, you can help create a more level playing field for all workers.
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