Training News

Salary History Questions—Soon to Be Illegal?

Organizations can appreciate the importance of training hiring managers in asking appropriate (and legal) preemployment questions. However, new legislation may make it so that they have a new topic to avoid during the application and interview process: the candidate’s salary history.

Federal lawmakers introduced a bill September 14 that would prohibit all employers from asking about a job applicant’s salary history.

Massachusetts adopted similar legislation just a few weeks ago, and California and New York City may soon follow.

The bill, H.R. 6030, is known as the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 and would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make it illegal to ask an applicant to disclose information about his or her previous compensation.

The legislation is aimed at eliminating “the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter,” according to the office of the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Because many employers set wages on the basis of an applicant’s previous salary, workers from historically disadvantaged groups often start out behind their white male counterparts in salary negotiations and never catch up, Norton’s office said in a statement. “Even though many employers may not intend to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or ethnicity, asking for prior salary information before offering an applicant a job can have a discriminatory effect in the workplace that begins or reinforces the wage gap.”

If implemented, the law would give the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) enforcement authority and allow it to assess fines up to $10,000 against employers that violate the law. It also would allow applicants and employees to bring private suits against employers and seek up to $10,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees.

Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) were original cosponsors. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.