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NYC Bans Salary History Question in Interviews

Topics: Current Events
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On May 4, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation banning employers in New York City from asking applicants for their salary history. The law takes effect on Oct. 31, 2017.

The goal, as with similar measures in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, is to prevent pay inequity.

“By prohibiting employers from asking about salary history during the hiring process, we will ensure that being underpaid once does not condemn anyone to a lifetime of inequity,” said Public Advocate Letitia James, lead sponsor of the bill.

How Salary History Perpetuates Pay Inequity

PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, shows that women still earn less than men, even when they work in the same jobs and have the same qualifications, skills, and experience. This controlled gender pay gap of 98 cents is obviously smaller than the 76-cents-on-the-dollar figure we’re used to hearing, but a 2-cent gap isn’t pay equity.

The gap is worse for women of color. In their report, The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, the American Association of University Women showed that Hispanic and Latina women earned 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men (uncontrolled data), while African-American women earned 63 cents to the dollar. African-American and Hispanic/Latino men also earn less than white men, according to Pew Research data.

“It is unacceptable that we’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work. The simple fact is that women and people of color are frequently paid less for the same work as their white, male counterparts,” said de Blasio.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

One reason for the gender pay gap: women are slightly less likely to negotiate pay, and slightly less likely to get a raise when they do. In fact, research shows that women who ask for more money pay a higher social cost than men who do the same. In other words, the gender pay gap isn’t a problem that can be solved by telling women to ask for more. To achieve true pay equity, we’ll need to remove systemic barriers.

Banning the salary history question means that hiring managers can’t base their offer on previous pay. Instead, they’ll have to set the range based on other factors (hopefully, market data and a solid compensation plan). That might not prevent them from offering women less, but it will stop them from using a previous low-ball salary as a starting point.

What You Can Do to Avoid the Salary History Question

So, what if you don’t live in New York, Massachusetts or Philadelphia (assuming pending litigation is resolved so that the Philly salary history ban proceeds)? Focus on the job you’re applying for, not the ones you’ve had.

At PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide, Penelope Trunk advises saying something like:

“This position is not exactly the same as my last job. So let’s discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job.”

To find out a reasonable range for the job in question, take PayScale’s Salary Survey and get a free salary report with the pay you deserve, based on the role and your qualifications.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think the salary history question is fair game, or are you in favor of legislation like this? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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