Salary History Bans: A Growing Trend


By: Allison S. Hyatt

More than 50 years have passed since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 requiring employers to pay men and women “equal pay for equal work.” In recent years, cities and states around the country have broadened employee protections as lawmakers seek to curb longstanding gender-based wage disparities in the labor market. Laws prohibiting employers from asking salary history information from job applicants are among these protections.

The City of San Francisco is the latest jurisdiction to ban the practice of requesting salary histories from prospective employees. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed Ordinance No. 170350 on July 19, 2017 making it illegal for employers to seek salary histories for any candidate seeking to work within the City’s geographic boundaries.

Other cities and states that have adopted similar bans include:

Massachusetts. Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit salary history queries from employers with the passage of its Pay Equity Bill in 2016. The law bars employers from asking prospective hires about their salary histories until after the employer makes a job offer that includes compensation. The law takes effect July 1, 2018.

New York State. Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 161 on January 9, 2017 prohibiting New York state agencies from asking, or mandating in any form, that an applicant provide current or prior salary information until such time as the applicant is extended a conditional offer of employment with compensation.

Philadelphia. On January 23, 2017, Philadelphia became the first US city to adopt its own salary history ban prohibiting employers, including private employers, from asking candidates about their wage history or relying on such information in setting compensation.

New Orleans. The City of New Orleans was next to follow suit with an executive order signed by its mayor on January 25, 2017 prohibiting city agencies from seeking salary histories from candidates during the application and interview process.

Pittsburgh. Five days later, the mayor of Pittsburgh signed a bill on January 30, 2017 that prohibits the city from asking job applicants for information regarding past wages or relying on salary history information in the employment process.

Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico became the first U.S. territory to enact its own Equal Pay Act on March 8, 2017. Like other salary history bans, the law prohibits employer inquiries into applicants’ current or past compensation rates.

New York City. On May 4, 2017 Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill to amend the New York City Human Rights Law to include restrictions on New York City employers from relying upon or making inquiries regarding salary histories from prospective employees. This prohibition applies during the hiring process, including contract negotiations. The bill will become effective on October 17, 2017.

Oregon. Oregon joined the list of states banning salary history questions on June 1, 2017 when Governor Kate Brown signed its Equal Pay Act of 2017 into law. The law’s prohibition regarding salary history inquiries takes effect on September 9, 2017. The Act prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s current or past salary information prior to an offer of employment.

Delaware. On June 14, 2017, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill that amends Delaware’s Code relating to unlawful employment practices to prohibit employers from engaging in salary-based screenings of prospective employees or seeking the compensation history of a job applicant from the applicant or a current or former employer.

More than two dozen other states are also considering legislation that would bar employers from asking job candidates about prior salaries. In the midst of this changing landscape of pay equity laws across the country, employers must navigate a myriad of sometimes conflicting federal, state and local laws governing use of salary history information. For instance, California state law currently does not directly prohibit employers from asking candidates about their past compensation; however, recent amendments to California’s Fair Pay Act do prohibit Employers from using salary histories as the sole justification for any disparities in compensation.

To ensure compliance with the growing trend of salary history bans, employers should consult with counsel to carefully assess their hiring practices and evaluate how new equal pay laws may impact their organizations.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Allison S. Hyatt at