California has a new salary history ban and for some state employers, the specifics can be a little confusing.
Established in late 2017 with the intention of eliminating previous wage bias in the workplace, according to the California Labor Code section 432.2, under the new ban employers are restricted from “relying on the salary history information of an applicant for employment as a factor in determining whether to offer employment to an applicant or what salary to offer an applicant.” In simpler terms, you can’t ask an applicant about their previous salary history.
But what about those special circumstances?
To help avoid the unintentional breaking of state law, here’s everything you need to know about what employers can and cannot ask.
What is Not Allowed
The obvious ban against employers directly questioning an applicant about their salary history aside, there are a few situations that might fall into more of a grey area but are just as illegal.
Take job recruiters, for example. As requesting salary info through any form is not allowed, learning of an applicant’s previous wage through a third-party agent is equally unlawful and the employer can be held liable – even if salary histories of prospective employees were collected by recruiters without the company’s knowledge.
Another instance includes asking a candidate about previous benefits received; and while queries as to the benefit amount is illegal, the ban is unclear as to whether questions about which benefits an applicant might lose if they become an employee, are unlawful as well.
Our advice? Play it safe and avoid the question altogether.
What is Allowed
Exceptions to the rule do exist, however.
For instance, if the applicant willingly provides his/her wage history without being asked, there is nothing in California’s Salary Ban to prohibit them. However, the key lies in the words “without being asked”, so employers should record the fact that the disclosure was voluntary – taking care not to let the information sway their decisions in hiring.
Lastly, if the decision to hire the applicant has already been made, only then can salary information be requested from the previous employer for verification. However, some counties require written consent from the applicant before disclosing any information.
All in all, how much a person has previously been paid doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and as the ban suggests, it’s best to focus rather on the skills of the applicant themselves.
(This post was based off of this article by Laurian Rutterbush.)