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Banning inquiries into salary histories an emerging trend in employment-related legislation

Massachusetts recently became the first state to ban employers from asking about applicants’ prior salaries and other state legislatures may soon follow suit.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 2119 makes it unlawful for an employer to “screen job applicants based on their wage, including benefits or other compensation or salary histories ... or request or require as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment, that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary history.”

The Massachusetts law also makes it unlawful for an employer to “seek the salary history of any prospective employee from any current or former employer; provided, however, that a prospective employee may provide written authorization to a prospective employer to confirm prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history only after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee.”  The law will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

In signing the new law, Massachusetts leapfrogged other states such as New York, California and Colorado, who have all been mulling similar salary history bans. Similar legislation recently introduced in New York City makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to inquire about the salary history of an applicant for employment.  The proposed New York City law goes further by barring employers from searching publicly available records for salary history information and from using such information as a means to determine an applicant’s salary.

The recent uptick in such laws comes as legislatures look for ways to close the gender and racial wage gap. Lawmakers argue that by prohibiting companies from asking about an applicant’s salary history, these laws can help to ensure that the pay disparities that have historically affected women and minorities from the onset of their careers are not exacerbated when a new employer attempts to base a new salary on a previous one.

Source: The 189th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 8/1/2016, & Law360.com, 8/15/2016

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