Among the many current trends in human resources, salary history bans are growing in popularity across the U.S. There was a time when employers could ask applicants about their salaries at previous jobs. Today, with a national focus on gender inequality in pay, many governments are enacting laws that prohibit employers from requesting such information.

It’s a good idea to be continuously aware of equal pay laws when negotiating an applicant’s salary. Here’s some information related to salary history bans. And please note, this information is ever-changing!

What are Salary History Bans?
Salary history bans are designed to address gender pay inequality. It has long been illegal for employers to pay different wages to men and women for the same work. Unfortunately, pay gaps still exist to this day. According to multiple reports including the Center for American Progress, women earn 81% of what men do for the same job. Salary history bans are designed to end this disparity.

How does a Salary History Ban work?
A salary history ban prohibits employers from asking applicants about their past salaries or benefits. They also prohibit employers from obtaining this information through agents or former employers. A Salary History Ban prohibits:

• Communication of any salary question to an applicant;
• Communication of any salary question to an applicant’s current or former employer;
• The search of records for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s current or former compensation.

Please note, employers in states with salary history bans can still ask applicants about their salary requirements and expectations. If an applicant voluntarily provides salary information without being asked, the employer can consider that information in setting pay.

States with Salary History Bans
As of September 2020, there are 19 statewide bans and 21 local bans on salary history. If you work in any of these states or regions, there are salary bans you should be aware of:

• Alabama
• California
• Colorado
• Connecticut
• Delaware
• District of Columbia
• Georgia
• Hawaii
• Illinois
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Maine
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• Mississippi
• Missouri
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Oregon
• Pennsylvania
• Puerto Rico
• South Carolina
• Utah
• Vermont
• Virginia
• Washington.

What should employers do?
If your company is subject to these laws, the first thing to do is remove questions on print and online applications that request salary history. The human resources team should also train managers about the new laws. They can no longer ask any questions about previous pay, including commissions and benefits. More generic questions about employees’ earning expectations will need to be asked and your outside recruiters will need to do the same.

Here’s a list of items to note regarding salary history bans:

• Review existing policies and procedures;
• Review all job applications;
• Provide questions to recruiters and other personnel involved in interviewing;
• Train recruiters to only focus on salary requirements and expectations.

The salary history ban trend is expected to continue to grow across the U.S. Similar measures are under consideration in a number of jurisdictions, and it may only be a matter of time before your state or community joins this growing list.

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.