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Weekend Roundup: California May Soon Ban Asking Applicants for Salary History

A proposal making its way through the California state legislature would prohibit employers in the state from asking candidates for their salary history and require them to disclose the pay scale to candidates who request it.


The bill, AB 168, is part of an effort to address “historic and structural impediments to gender equity,” according to Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman. This addition comes after amendments made to California’s Equal Pay Act that went into effect in January 2016, which made it more difficult for employers to defend against unequal pay claims based on gender.


Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2015 showed that earnings for full-time working women in California are 84.8 percent of the median for men, which amounts to an average $7,000 wage gap for women annually. Proponents of the bill have stated that barring employers from asking about salary history will prevent previous salary discrimination from continuing.


The bill also has its opponents. The California Chamber of Commerce stated that the bill could impede recruiting efforts, or expose employers to expensive litigation, and that there are other legitimate and nondiscriminatory uses for salary data when making hiring decisions.


Recruiters commonly use salary history as a reference for if the employee’s expectations of compensation exceed what the employer can realistically offer, a chamber representative said.


The provision requiring employers to provide a pay range to applicants has also raised concern among many employers. A representative reported that employers may limit an applicant’s interest in a position by disclosing pay scales too soon, because the pay scale could change depending on skills, education, and prior experience.


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