(opolja/iStockphoto.com.)

It’s not don’t ask, don’t tell. Instead, it’s just don’t ask.

That’s what lawyers and legal recruiters stress about an emerging wave of legislation barring employers from asking hiring prospects about their prior salary history.

The latest iteration of the law, passed by New York City in April, resembles legislation passed by Philadelphia’s city council in January, a statewide law enacted in Massachusetts, and one under consideration in California.

In Texas, State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) who is of counsel to Andrews Kurth, introduced in November 2016 House Bill 290 in the state legislature, where it is now advancing. Johnson’s proposal bars Lone Star state employers from including questions about wage history on employment applications or asking about such matters in interviews.

Proponents of the laws argue they will narrow the well-documented gender pay equity gap. The theory: Women will no longer have to share how much underpayment they accepted with an existing or previous employer, setting themselves up to receive less than men in a new job.

Few question that such a gap exists in the employment market nationwide and the legal industry specifically.

“I got two calls in the last three weeks from female partners saying they were undercompensated where they were working,” said Adam Weiss, a recruiter who is also author of “The Lateral Lawyer,” a 2015 published book aimed at attorneys making such moves.

But critics of the new laws barring employers from making the inquiries contend that more transparency—rather than less—would help reduce pay disparities between men and women. And for big law firms making attorney hires, the new rules might not matter much.

That’s because associate prospects and firms generally all know well-publicized lockstep pay rates. Partners who seek to make lateral moves, meanwhile, often have a choice of multiple opportunities in this “fluid market,” Weiss said. As a result of that fluidity, the lateral partners’ existing compensation levels have less significance in pay rate discussions with prospective employers, Weiss said.

“From a very practical point of view, the impact it has on the way people do business will not be that great,” said Weiss about the New York City law.

Under the law, prospective employers can ask about the value of a partner candidate’s book of business and get a pretty good idea of her market value, he said. The formula that most law firms use is that partners take home one-third of the value of the business they bring in, Weiss said.

Given those conditions in the legal market, Weiss recommends prospects share with potential employers their prior and existing compensation. “The risk of suffering by disclosing your prior salary … is much lower because of how fluid the market,” he said.

Meanwhile, the New York law allows employers—in the legal industry and generally—to ask further questions about prior compensation if the candidate first offers the specifics, according to Jason Habinsky, a Haynes and Boone partner in New York, who practices employment law.

“If the applicant on his or her own introduces the information, then it becomes something that can be discussed,” Habinsky said.

Employers should make sure that they have trained any of their interviewers to not come close though “to asking for the information, or prodding in any way,” Habinsky warned. “But they should be prepared to react if the information is offered,” he said.

Copyright Texas Lawyer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

It’s not don’t ask, don’t tell. Instead, it’s just don’t ask.

That’s what lawyers and legal recruiters stress about an emerging wave of legislation barring employers from asking hiring prospects about their prior salary history.

The latest iteration of the law, passed by New York City in April, resembles legislation passed by Philadelphia’s city council in January, a statewide law enacted in Massachusetts , and one under consideration in California.

In Texas, State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) who is of counsel to Andrews Kurth , introduced in November 2016 House Bill 290 in the state legislature, where it is now advancing. Johnson’s proposal bars Lone Star state employers from including questions about wage history on employment applications or asking about such matters in interviews.

Proponents of the laws argue they will narrow the well-documented gender pay equity gap. The theory: Women will no longer have to share how much underpayment they accepted with an existing or previous employer, setting themselves up to receive less than men in a new job.

Few question that such a gap exists in the employment market nationwide and the legal industry specifically.

“I got two calls in the last three weeks from female partners saying they were undercompensated where they were working,” said Adam Weiss, a recruiter who is also author of “The Lateral Lawyer,” a 2015 published book aimed at attorneys making such moves.

But critics of the new laws barring employers from making the inquiries contend that more transparency—rather than less—would help reduce pay disparities between men and women. And for big law firms making attorney hires, the new rules might not matter much.

That’s because associate prospects and firms generally all know well-publicized lockstep pay rates. Partners who seek to make lateral moves, meanwhile, often have a choice of multiple opportunities in this “fluid market,” Weiss said. As a result of that fluidity, the lateral partners’ existing compensation levels have less significance in pay rate discussions with prospective employers, Weiss said.

“From a very practical point of view, the impact it has on the way people do business will not be that great,” said Weiss about the New York City law.

Under the law, prospective employers can ask about the value of a partner candidate’s book of business and get a pretty good idea of her market value, he said. The formula that most law firms use is that partners take home one-third of the value of the business they bring in, Weiss said.

Given those conditions in the legal market, Weiss recommends prospects share with potential employers their prior and existing compensation. “The risk of suffering by disclosing your prior salary … is much lower because of how fluid the market,” he said.

Meanwhile, the New York law allows employers—in the legal industry and generally—to ask further questions about prior compensation if the candidate first offers the specifics, according to Jason Habinsky, a Haynes and Boone partner in New York , who practices employment law.

“If the applicant on his or her own introduces the information, then it becomes something that can be discussed,” Habinsky said.

Employers should make sure that they have trained any of their interviewers to not come close though “to asking for the information, or prodding in any way,” Habinsky warned. “But they should be prepared to react if the information is offered,” he said.

Copyright Texas Lawyer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.