Flood of new states ban salary history questions – did yours?


As budget time approaches, fewer of you will know what new hires pulled in at their old jobs in order to determine their new compensation.

New Jersey is the latest state to remove the tricky question of what someone earned at their last company from the list of things you can ask a job applicant.

The Garden State’s ban goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Deadlines coming fast and furious

This latest move brings the number of statewide bans on the books to 18, with an additional 17 local bans.

That’s a significant uptick from even just two years ago.

And you have a flood of states enacting new ones in the coming months. Who’s up next:

  • Alabama: Sept. 1, 2019
  • Maine: Sept. 17, 2019
  • Missouri: Oct. 31, 2019
  • New York: Jan. 6, 2020, and
  • Colorado: Jan. 1, 2021.

Some companies have also decided to preemptively ban the practice on their own, like Amazon.

Even if your state or city has yet to ban salary history questions, it’s likely only a matter of time. So you just might want to pluck those out of the interview script preemptively.

Flipping the script

Of course you don’t want to simply tell managers they can’t do something without telling them what they can do instead.

So how can you be sure you’re offering job applicants a fair salary under a ban like this?

Inc.com columnist Miriam Rozen shared clever ways your peers are already getting around this question. A few alternatives worth considering:

  1. Use data sources. There’s a ton of salary data available online – a lot of it for free. AngelList is a website that has information on pay rates by job role and location. Glassdoor, a crowdsourced database for the job market, can also be helpful. Using tools like these can help you make successful salary offers. They could also reveal if you may be paying employees too much or too little for certain jobs.
  2. Hire from within. Promoting current employees is a great way to dodge the salary history ban since you already know what you’re paying existing staff. There are other benefits to this too, such as maintaining high retention rates and avoiding salary negotiations.
  3. Use salary info … if a candidate discloses it. Laws may prohibit you from asking about prior salaries, but if an applicant voluntarily gives you the info, you can usually use that info. You may be able to consider the previous salary in your offer as well as ask follow-up questions about it. But remember, where the laws apply, supervisors cannot coerce candidates to disclose salary in any way, so that is dangerous territory. And you’ll want to make sure questions about prior salary have been removed from job applications.