California bans employers from asking about salary history

This article looks at California’s new law that bans employers from asking about applicants’ pay histories.

On January 1, 2018 an important new pay-privacy law will go into effect in California. As Fox 11 News reports, the law will prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary history either on the job application itself or during the job interview. While a handful of cities and states have passed similar legislation in recent years, California becomes by far the biggest state to impose such pay-privacy laws. The law marks a significant milestone for employment law in California and is designed to help close the gender wage gap.

New salary history law to take effect

Assembly Bill 168 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October and will take effect on January 1, 2018. The law bans employers from asking prospective employees about their previous salaries or benefits. Furthermore, the law gives prospective employees the right to ask potential employers for and receive a pay scale for the position that they are applying for.

While employers cannot ask applicants about their pay history, there is nothing stopping applicants from providing information about their pay history to a potential employer voluntarily. Furthermore, an employer is permitted to ask applicants what salary range they expect for the position that they are interested in.

Closing the wage gap

The new law is largely targeted at closing the gender and racial wage gap. Women and racial minorities are often paid lower than their white and male counterparts despite doing similar work and that wage gap is often carried over into new jobs that base salaries on what applicants were receiving at previous positions.

As Quartz reports, the law is expected to have an especially big impact on Silicon Valley companies. One study of the technology industry found that women who are applying for the same job position as men are given a lower pay offer than their male counterparts about two-thirds of the time and salary offers for women in tech are four percent lower on average.

While employers tried to fight against the pay-privacy bill and lost, they did get the governor to veto a separate bill that would have required companies to publicly disclose their gender wage gaps. The governor justified the veto by arguing that the bill's language was too ambiguous and would have encouraged more litigation instead of actually closing the pay gap.

Employment law help

While workers in California enjoy many legal rights, the only way to ensure those rights are upheld is by holding employers accountable. Anybody who believes their employer may have violated their rights should contact an employment law attorney right away. An attorney can advise clients about what legal options they have at their disposal and, in some cases, help them pursue compensation that they may be entitled to.