California Bars Employers from Asking Applicants about Salary History

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Last year, the State of California passed a series of labor and employment bills that redefine the rules employers must follow when hiring workers in the state. The new laws, which went into effect at the beginning of 2018, address workers’ wages and hours, leaves of absence and benefits, hiring practices, health and safety issues and other workplace protections. Under the terms of one of the new rulings, employers in California are now barred from asking about an applicant’s salary history.

What Is AB 168?

California Assembly Bill (AB) 168 not only makes it illegal to ask about salary history, it prohibits an employer from relying on the salary history information of an applicant for employment as a factor in determining whether to offer the applicant a job, or determining what salary to offer the applicant. In addition, employers must provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant if he or she asks.

The legislation applies to all employers in the state, public and private, and covers not just salary, but other types of compensation and benefits. Employers need to be sure that all workers who may be involved in the hiring process understand what they can and cannot ask applicants.

Don’t Ask, But Applicants Can Tell

In most parts of the state, applicants could, however, choose to volunteer the information, according to the language of the new law. (San Francisco is the sole city to make it illegal to use volunteered salary information, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal.) It’s also permissible to ask about an applicants salary expectations.

“If an applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses salary history information to a prospective employer, nothing in this section shall prohibit that employer from considering or relying on that voluntarily disclosed salary history information in determining the salary for that applicant,” according to the legislation.

What’s the Goal?

The goal of AB 168 is to attempt to remove the perceived gap in negotiating power between an employer and employees who must disclose their prior salary. Mandating the disclosure of salary history is often viewed as a way of perpetuating a gender gap in which women, who often start job-hunting at lower salaries than men, continue to lag behind in pay for the same positions.

How Do You Ensure Compliance?

It helps to consult with third-party experts who understand California labor laws. Ontario, California-based DataCheck understands how to comply with the new rules in California as well as similar rules in other states and cities. While many employers engage in background checking applicants today, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Ensure you’re remaining within the margins of the law by seeking help from professionals.
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