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Considering a Job Candidate’s Salary History: Soon to Be a Thing of the Past?

When deciding whether to make a job offer to a candidate and, if so, how much to offer in salary, employers commonly ask the candidate for his or her current salary and/or salary history. This has long been an accepted practice. But in one state, Massachusetts, it is now illegal.

In August, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history until after they make a job offer that includes a proposed salary amount. The rationale behind the law is that basing salary offers on a candidate’s salary history perpetuates pay disparities based on gender. If a female employee was paid less than her male counterparts at her last job, and her next employer bases her new salary on what she was paid at that job, the employee will be trapped in a cycle of pay inequality that may continue throughout her career.

Following Massachusetts’ lead, a group of Congressional legislators have announced plans to introduce a bill prohibiting employers from asking applicants for their salary history before making an offer. Whether that bill will become law, or whether similar laws will be enacted at the state level outside of Massachusetts, remains to be seen. For now, employers should be sure to keep this issue on their radar and stay tuned!


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