Job interviews are tough and they can be full of awkward questions. One of the awkward questions many applicants face is a potential employer’s request for an applicant’s compensation history. Not only is that question awkward, but some have theorized that basing starting compensation on an applicant’s historical compensation perpetuates the gender and minority wage gap. As a result, a percentage increase of the current salary of an applicant who is impacted by the wage gap could result in an even wider wage gap when compared to an applicant who is not negatively impacted by the wage gap. Accordingly, there has been a recent trend in several cities and states to propose and even pass legislation banning a new employer from seeking salary history information from an applicant or basing a starting salary on an applicant’s prior salary.

In 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law prohibiting employers from asking potential candidates about their salary histories prior to making a job offer. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed “The Act to Establish Pay Equity” on Aug. 1, 2016, with an effective date of July 1, 2018. Under this law, among other things, it is unlawful for an employer to “seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria,” Section 105A(c)(2). Salary history bills have also been introduced in other states such as California, New Jersey and Washington.

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