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8 min read

Salary History Ban: Navigating the New Norms in Job Interviews

Salary History Ban: Navigating the New Norms in Job Interviews

Salary history bans are legislative measures that prevent employers from asking job candidates about their previous wages or salaries. Such bans aim to reduce wage disparities and combat discrimination, providing a more level playing field for all job applicants. By eliminating the reliance on previous salary information, these laws aim to ensure that compensation offers are based on the role’s requirements and the applicants’ qualifications rather than their past earnings, which may have been impacted by bias or unequal pay practices.

Key Takeaways

  • Salary history bans aim to address wage disparities and discrimination.
  • Employers and job seekers are adapting to new hiring practice norms.
  • These regulations are part of a broader movement to promote fair compensation.

Overview of Salary History Bans

Salary history bans represent a legislative approach to reducing wage inequality and promoting fair employment practices. They prohibit employers from asking about a candidate’s past earnings during the hiring process.

Definition and Purpose

Salary history bans constitute laws that forbid employers from inquiring about or considering a job applicant’s previous wage history when making employment decisions. The primary goal of these bans is to dismantle persistent wage gaps, particularly those affecting women and minorities. By eliminating prior salary from hiring discussions, candidates are evaluated on their qualifications and the market value of the position, rather than their earnings history which unequal pay practices may have influenced.

Growth of Salary History Bans Globally

The adoption of salary history bans is an emerging trend observed across various parts of the globe, reflecting a growing recognition of legislation’s role in fostering equitable compensation. Legislation enacting these bans has been implemented at different governmental levels, including states, municipalities, and countries. For instance, research highlights the evolving empirical literature on salary history ban laws in the United States, showing a patchwork of state and local laws aimed towards this purpose. Some countries in Europe and other regions are also considering similar measures as part of a broader commitment to workplace equality.

Legislation by Region

The United States has seen a growing trend in implementing salary history bans across various regions to reduce the gender wage gap. These legislative efforts range from statewide bans to specific local ordinances.

Salary History Bans in the United States

Salary history bans at the federal level exist to promote equal pay, though comprehensive nationwide legislation has not yet been enacted. However, many states and localities have moved forward with their initiatives. For instance, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, and Wisconsin have enacted laws prohibiting employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants.

State-Specific Regulations

States tailor their bans to address local concerns and economic environments. Massachusetts was one of the first states to take action, followed by others, including Connecticut, Delaware, and Puerto Rico. In New York State, state and local governments, including New York City, have implemented their versions of the salary history ban. Each state’s legislation has nuances; for example, Maine and Alabama have different scopes and enforcement mechanisms.

Local Ordinances and City-Level Bans

Beyond state laws, numerous cities have adopted salary history bans. San Francisco, Chicago, and municipalities in Georgia and Louisiana have local ordinances prohibiting inquiries into past salaries. New York City took a strong stance with stringent regulations, and similarly, the District of Columbia has its specific legal requirements around salary history. Local governments often pass such ordinances to address wage disparities more granularly than state-wide policies can achieve.

Impact on Employers and Hiring Practices

The institution of salary history bans has led employers to modify their hiring frameworks and processes to comply with new legislation.

Changes in Interview and Application Process

Employers have had to revise job applications by removing queries about prior wages to align with the policy changes prohibiting salary history disclosure. Particularly, public employers have been at the forefront of this change, often influencing the practices of private-sector companies. During interviews, hiring managers avoid questions regarding salary history, focusing instead on the applicant’s expectations and qualifications.

Adjustments in Human Resources Policies

Human Resources departments have had to update policies to ensure compliance with salary history bans. Job postings no longer list salary history as a requirement. HR representatives are trained to determine compensation based on the role’s value and the candidate’s experience without the context of prior salary. This approach is evident in public and private sectors, where compensation strategies are redesigned to promote equity and unbiased hiring processes.

Rights and Protections for Job Applicants

Recent legislative actions have fortified job applicants’ rights by imposing rules on employer inquiries into past compensation. These measures are designed to mitigate the perpetuation of wage discrimination and offer a more equitable ground during the hiring process.

Prohibitions Against Salary History Questions

Laws now expressly prohibit employers from asking candidates about their previous salaries during interviews. This legislative shift aims to prevent the cycle of pay disparity which often penalizes job applicants who may have been underpaid in previous positions. In states like Oregon, employers are banned from using pay history as a determinant in offering employment or setting compensation levels, according to a legal review provided by

Voluntary Disclosure and Discussion of Salary Expectations

While prohibitions exist for directly questioning a job applicant’s salary history, individuals may voluntarily disclose this information. When such information is provided voluntarily, it has the potential to initiate a discussion about salary expectations and benefits. Moreover, employers are encouraged to furnish salary ranges for a given position upfront, thereby enhancing transparency and allowing candidates to understand the potential compensation before entering the selection process.

Strategies for Applicants Navigating Salary History Bans

When states implement salary history bans, applicants often find themselves in a new territory during the job search and interview process. These laws aim to curb gender discrimination and promote pay equality, altering salary negotiations and discussions. Here are strategies for effectively navigating this changed landscape.

Negotiating Compensation Without Salary History

Applicants should approach compensation negotiation by researching the market value of their desired position. They can use industry salary surveys and online compensation databases to determine a reasonable range. When the topic of past salary arises, applicants may pivot the conversation, focusing on their qualifications and the value they bring.

Instead of providing past salary figures, they can prepare a statement explaining how their skills and experience align with the role’s responsibilities. Statements like, “Based on my understanding of the role and my experience, I am looking for a salary in the range of…” allow the applicant to steer the discussion without reference to past wages.

Discussing Qualifications and Market Value

Applicants can highlight their qualifications during the interview to justify their salary expectations. This approach shifts the focus from past earnings, which may perpetuate gender discrimination, to their potential contribution to the company. Preparing a list of achievements and skills directly relevant to the job description is important.

They should also be prepared to talk about the market value for someone with their skill set. Using phrases such as, “Industry standards suggest that a role like this typically pays…” shows that the applicant has done their homework and understands their worth in the market, regardless of what they may have earned previously. This can also prevent discrimination and help ensure current employees are compensated fairly.

By preparing to discuss salary expectations based on qualifications and market value rather than past earnings, applicants can navigate salary history bans effectively, reducing the risk of continued gender discrimination and contributing to a more equitable employment landscape.

Economic and Social Implications

The implementation of salary history bans aims to address longstanding pay disparities and promote fairness in the labor market, particularly in the context of gender wage gaps. These regulatory changes have significant implications for industries’ economic structure and social dynamics within the workplace.

Effects on Gender Wage Gap

Salary history bans have been a catalyst for narrowing the gender wage gap. By removing pay history questions during the hiring process, women are more likely to receive offers based on their qualifications rather than prior compensation, which may have been influenced by discrimination. A study examining the impact of such bans suggests that these laws can lead to higher initial salaries for women, thereby setting a precedent for fair pay from the outset of employment.

Influence on Fair Pay and Pay Disparities

Salary history bans also affect broader pay disparities by mandating employers establish a pay range for positions without relying on applicants’ previous salaries. This shift encourages a more transparent hiring process and compels businesses to re-evaluate their salary structures and promotion protocols to ensure equal pay for equal work. It also deters practices that could lead to retaliation or penalties against employees discussing pay, as transparency becomes a normative part of company culture in the United States.

These procedures contribute to a level playing field, potentially enhancing fairness in bonuses, raises, and other compensation aspects beyond base salary. The resulting clarity in the compensation system helps to protect employees from pay discrimination and fosters a more equitable work environment.

Compliance and Enforcement

Ensuring compliance with salary history ban laws is crucial for their efficacy in addressing pay differences and tilting the pay scale towards equity. A combination of local laws implements these measures and, in some cases, complemented by federal law. Effectively executing these laws involves specific monitoring and reporting requirements, clear penalties, and retaliation provisions.

Monitoring and Reporting Requirements

Legislation often requires employers and employment agencies to maintain records to demonstrate that they are not requesting salary histories during job applications. Local law may compel these entities to submit periodic reports to a designated oversight body. For instance, in regions with salary history bans, employers might be obliged to document their compliance efforts, detailing how they refrain from prompting job candidates about their pay history.

Penalties and Retaliation Provisions

Governors and other local officials have been instrumental in enacting local bans that articulate the consequences of non-compliance. These can include fines, mandated corrective actions, or civil penalties. For example:

  • First Offense: A fine of up to $1,000
  • Subsequent Offenses: Fines increasing incrementally to $2,000 or more

Moreover, these laws protect individuals from retaliation if they choose not to disclose their salary history. Should an employer penalize a candidate for failing to provide salary information, legal recourse is available, and local authorities enforce these protections.

Future Prospects and Trends

As salary history bans continue to shape the recruitment landscape, their future scope and impact on the job market remain critical focus areas. Trends in legislation and the effectiveness of these bans are pivotal in forecasting how they may influence wage equality and employer practices.

Predictions on Expansion and Effectiveness

Legislative trends suggest an ongoing expansion of salary history bans. These laws are increasingly adopted as a measure to address wage inequities. After the effective date of these bans, employers are prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s past compensation. Observations in the market indicate that such restrictions may lead to increased transparency in compensation practices. For instance, investigations into Wage Inequality show how the absence of previous salary information pushes hiring entities toward more equitable starting salaries. Critics, however, remain skeptical about long-term effectiveness, urging further study on the impact of bans over time.

Potential Revisions in Legislation

Future trends could involve adjustments to existing laws to tighten or relax provisions based on their demonstrated effectiveness. Policymakers must watch closely for unintended consequences, such as employers leaning on alternative methods to gauge salary expectations. In response, they may consider revisions that further safeguard against income disparities. Continuous monitoring of salary history ban impacts, as described in studies on Perpetuating Wage Inequality, will be essential in guiding these legislative recalibrations. The goal remains to refine laws to balance the needs of employers and employees in the compensation negotiation process.


Salary history bans represent a legislative effort to address wage inequalities in the job market. Legislators and advocates argue that these initiatives can break the cycle of pay discrimination by ensuring that new salaries are not anchored to previous, potentially discriminatory wages.

Research suggests that such bans may be instrumental in closing the gender pay gap. For instance, studies indicate that banning the disclosure of past salaries may indeed limit discriminators’ ability to perpetuate wage disparities. However, definitive evidence of the effectiveness of these bans necessitates additional exploration.

The impact of salary history bans on wage negotiation is also nuanced. Experimental evidence shows that it could alter how salaries are set, though not all consequences are straightforward or uniformly positive.

The theory that these bans can contribute to healing the economic scars left by past recessions is particularly relevant for groups initiating their careers in such conditions. These less evident benefits spotlight the multifaceted nature of the salary history ban’s potential impact.

As policymakers and organizations consider the adoption of salary history bans, they need to weigh the empirical evidence alongside the theoretical benefits. Monitoring compliance with these bans is also crucial to ensure their intended effects are realized. As with any policy, careful analysis and continued scrutiny are key to understanding and optimizing outcomes.

Article By
Managing Editor
Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.