Can You Ask for a Candidate’s Salary History?

Posted: March 18, 2021

According to the Pew Research Center, while the pay gap in the U.S. between men and women has narrowed since 1980, women still earn about 15% less than men. Additionally, there is growing concern over equal pay equity in the work force, fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement. This has resulted in a focus to achieve pay equity not only between men and women but among ethnic groups. Proponents of this mission feel that banning salary history inquires during the interview and the employment screening processes help accomplish pay equity. As this national debate rages on, the trend of salary history ban legislation is likely here to stay on both the federal and state levels.

Salary History Bans on State-by-State Basis

Can you ask for a candidate’s salary history? It depends if your state or locality has a salary history ban in place. As of March 2021, many states have already enacted bans on requesting salary history as a criterion for hiring or promotion. There has been recent legislation passed with regard to pay equity and salary history passed in the states of Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and New York as well as the cities of Cincinnati, Ohio and Toledo, Ohio. In contrast, the state of Michigan has gone against the tide by prohibiting salary history bans in the state, dictating that local governments may not regulate the information that employers use to make hiring decisions. Michigan is definitely bucking the trend with this stance since many other states and localities are actively enacting salary history bans.

Compensation Inquiry Restrictions – Private Employers

Here are the states that have enacted legislation for salary history bans on a statewide level:

  • Alabama (9/1/19) – Employers in the state of Alabama are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on if a job applicant provides pay history or not.
  • California (1/1/18) – Employers in the state of California are prohibited from asking about a candidate’s pay history.
  • Colorado (01/01/2021) – The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act prohibits all employers in Colorado from asking job candidates for salary history.
  • Connecticut (01/01/19) – Most Connecticut employers are prohibited from asking for an applicant’s pay history.
  • Delaware (12/14/17) – Employers in Delaware are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on applicants’ past compensation and they are not allowed to ask about salary history until after an offer is extended.
  • District of Columbia (11/17/17) – District government agencies are prohibited from asking candidates for their salary history until after an offer of employment is extended.
  • Hawaii (1/1/19) – Employers in Hawaii are not allowed to ask about an applicant’s salary history although they can use it if it is disclosed by the applicant.
  • Illinois (7/29/19) – Employers in Illinois are prohibited from asking about pay history including benefits or other compensation, but they may discuss applicants’ pay expectations.
  • Maine (9/17/19) – Employers in Maine are prohibited from seeking information about a prospective employee’s pay history until after a job offer has been confirmed.
  • Maryland (10/01/2020) – Maryland employers may not ask about pay history, although an applicant may provide it after the initial offer of employment is made.
  • Massachusetts (7/1/18) – Massachusetts employers are prohibited from requesting salary history information unless it is disclosed by the applicant or after an offer has been extended.
  • New Jersey (1/1/20) – Employers in New Jersey are prohibited from screening an applicant based on their pay history.
  • New York (1/6/20) Employers in New York may not inquire about salary history unless an applicant disclosed it.
  • Oregon (10/6/17) – Employers in Oregon may not ask about an applicants’ pay history until after an offer is made. Employers are not allowed to use prior compensation as a method to determine pay.
  • Puerto Rico (3/8/17) – Employers in Puerto Rico may not request applicants’ pay history, but the law makes some exceptions to this after an offer of employment is made.
  • Vermont (7/1/18) – Employers may not request applicants’ pay history.
  • Washington (7/28/19) – Employers may not inquire about an applicant’s salary history until after an offer is made but they may use salary information that has been disclosed by the applicant.

Th following localities also have salary history restrictions in place. Companies that conduct business in these localities should familiarize themselves with the laws.

  • CA, San Francisco
  • MO, Kansas City
  • NY, Albany County
  • NY, New York City
  • NY, Suffolk County
  • NY, Westchester County
  • OH, Cincinnati
  • OH, Toledo
  • PA, Philadelphia

It is essential for employers that conduct employee background checks to have a thorough understanding of new and current legislation. Info Cubic is always here to help with compliance-related matters! For questions regarding regulations and compliance related to employment screening, please contact Info Cubic at (877) 360-4636.

It is important to note that the preceding is offered as general educational information and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Given the intricacies of the pertinent laws and regulations, consultation with qualified legal counsel is recommended.