‘What’s Your Current Salary?’ ‘None Of Your Business!’

By Martha T. Moore

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Barring wage-history questions is one proposal in the effort to narrow the gender wage gap.


Next time you get asked, “What’s your current salary?” in a job interview, check your ZIP code. It is now illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their previous salaries in at least eight states and eight counties and cities.

The laws and ordinances passed in the past two years are aimed at narrowing the persistent pay gap between men and women.

A prospective employer who knows your current salary can offer you a pay bump based on that figure –– or keep your new salary low.

If you’re a woman, you likely make less in your current job than a male recruit with the same skills and experience.

An employer can offer a woman a pay bump for a new job and still pay her less than a man.

“We’re seeing tremendous momentum behind the idea of banning questions about prior salary,” says Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, which advocates state pay-history bans. “It’s a specific, very actionable thing that can be put in place in a proactive way … and helps to stop the cycle of systemic wage disparities.”

Prohibiting salary-history questions probably benefits managerial and professional job candidates the most, Shabo said. But it also will benefit people who might have moved from a low-cost region to a more competitive market, or who took time off from work. “That’s a lot of people in an era where caregiving is common, where migration is common.”

Even proponents of eliminating the question, however, aren’t sure whether wage-history bans will help close the gender pay gap.

Business groups including chambers of commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management oppose the bans.

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