Salary history: All about salary history bans in each US state

March 22, 2022  •  Reading Time: 8 min.

Do I have to report my present annual salary?

In the U.S., the current trend is to provide a salary range rather than salary histories in the hiring process.

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This is important for reducing pay disparities. It can also be a great incentive for entry-level job applicants and makes companies more attractive as employers, especially for women and minorities.

Before we go into more detail about why so-called salary history bans are important to pay equality and which states already have a ban on wage history in place, let’s take a look at why employers consider salary information in the first place when they screen potential job candidates.

Why do employers ask about salary history?

Some companies state that knowing an applicant’s past and current salary is important to save time for both the applicant and the company during the interview process. If the company could not afford the salary the applicant would likely seek (typically 10 – 20 % more than the current salary), it would be pointless to make an offer at all.

To counter this, employers can simply state a salary range in a job posting and allow applicants to decide for themselves whether that range is acceptable to them.

Some recruiters also argue that salary history is necessary to determine the applicant’s market value. Steadily increasing salaries in previous positions would indicate that the applicant is worthy of taking on more responsibility and receiving more pay.

This information can also be determined from the applicant’s resume and interview questions, or through market research by finding out what other companies pay for the same job.

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Is it legal to ask about salary history?

In some cities and states, employers are prohibited from asking job seekers about their past salary. For more information, refer to our list of states where salary questions are prohibited. However – under federal law – many employers are still free to ask job candidates about their current and past remuneration.

How can you respond to a salary history request?

If you are asked to attach a list of prior pay to your resume and would like to comply with that request, we have compiled the best tips for writing a compensation history (including a salary history template) for you here.

ℹ️ Usually included in the salary history list: The name of each company you worked for, the job title, and the gross annual salary (including additional compensation) you earned while working for that employer.

Is it okay to state your desired salary range?

In many cases, it is a good alternative to stating the salary history information if you – as a job seeker – simply provide your salary expectations or a desired wage range.

Tip: You can also indicate that your salary expectations are flexible. This can help keep you in the race for the job and gives you some flexibility in later salary negotiations.

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What is the salary history ban?

Sometimes employers ask about an applicant’s salary history before considering them for a job offer. However, due to the salary disclosure ban that has already gone into effect in many states and municipalities, fewer employers are asking about salary during interviews and job applications these days.

The laws governing this ban vary from place to place.

In California, for example, employers are prohibited from asking about an applicant’s previous salary – but they may ask applicants to describe their ideal pay range for the open position. In New York State, on the other hand, all employers are prohibited by law from asking candidates questions about their expected salary range.

Why are salary history bans important for ensuring pay equality?

Prohibiting salary history is an important and effective starting point in the fight against wage discrimination. In most cases, however, more is needed to close the often intractable pay disparity. Policymakers therefore need to make even stronger efforts to combat wage discrimination.

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List of states that have banned salary history questions

State and local governments are increasingly enacting laws and regulations that prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants. The laws aim to break the cycle of pay discrimination.

Below is an overview of the states and cities that have enacted such prohibitions:

  • Alabama (state-wide)
  • California (state-wide)

ℹ️ In California, private and public employers are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s compensation history. Even if an applicant voluntarily provides it, they may not be considered by potential employers when determining a new employee’s remuneration. Employers must also provide salary information to applicants upon request.

  • Colorado (state-wide)
  • Connecticut (state-wide)

ℹ️ Employers in Connecticut are not allowed to ask about an applicant’s pay history unless it is voluntarily disclosed.

  • Delaware (state-wide)
  • District of Columbia (state-wide) (only agencies of the D.C. Government)
  • Georgia (only Atlanta and city agencies there)
  • Hawaii (state-wide)
  • Illinois (state-wide)
  • Kentucky (Louisville and the Jefferson County Metro Government)
  • Louisiana (City departments in New Orleans)

ℹ️ Once a job offer is made, an applicant may submit a pay history to negotiate a higher salary.

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  • Maine (state-wide)
  • Maryland (state-wide)
  • Massachusetts (state-wide)
  • Mississippi (applications for employment with the city of Jackson may not ask for previous pay)
  • Missouri (applications for employment with the city of Kansas City and St. Louis may not ask for previous salary)

ℹ️ The city may not ask applicants about their salary history until they have been hired at an agreed-upon salary.

  • Nevada (state-wide)
  • New Jersey (state-wide)
  • New York (state-wide)
  • New York City

ℹ️ Employers in New York City are prohibited from requesting information about applicants’ past salary or benefits. If an employer already has this information, they may not use it to determine compensation.

  • North Carolina (state-wide)
  • Ohio (Cincinnati and Toledo are affected by salary history bans)
  • Oregon (state-wide)
  • Pennsylvania (state-wide)
  • Puerto Rico (commonwealth-wide)
  • Rhode Island (state-wide)
  • South Carolina (the city of Columbia and Richland County)
  • Utah (Salt Lake City Corporation)
  • Vermont (state-wide)
  • Virginia (state-wide)
  • Washington (state-wide)

ℹ️ Employers in Washington are not allowed to ask about previous pay. However, they may confirm this information if the applicant provides it voluntarily. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide information about the minimum salary for the position for which the applicant is applying if the applicant requests it.

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Conclusion

In recent years, the use of salary ranges instead of salary histories for a given position has increased, and not just in states where the pay history ban applies anyway.

Applicants can easily learn about an employer’s salary range for similar positions from various online websites where employees can post information about their salaries and work environment. Greater transparency levels the playing field for all applicants, reducing discrimination and inequality.

Of course, employers can also go beyond the legal requirements and voluntarily provide applicants with more information about compensation decisions. This transparency creates a culture that sets the right tone for applicants with the potential employer, helps attract a greater diversity of applicants, and can also reduce the pay gap for women and people of color.

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FAQ

What is a salary history?

A pay history shows an employee’s past income. Salary history is different from compensation requirement, which is the starting salary for a new job that is requested during a salary negotiation.

What to do if job postings ask you to provide your salary history on your application?

How much did you get paid? – A job posting asks job applicants to include pay history in their cover letter or resume? Here are some ways you can handle this: You can give the employer a range or make a general statement. Or: Mention it only briefly and don’t put it on a separate sheet. You can give the employer an indication of your flexibility as well and that your previous wage is not set in stone.

How do you answer the question about salary history?

In many states, it is still legal to ask about previous pay when a person changes jobs, so this question may be posed. So let’s look at how you can respond if it happens: “I keep this information confidential, but the range I’m looking for now is …” or “My previous employers have always kept this information confidential, but I am looking for … .” Tip: Research an appropriate salary range before the interview.

Why are there bans on salary history in many states and cities?

Cities such as New York, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans and states like North Carolina and Illinois have enacted laws banning hiring practices like salary histories. The goal of these bans is to level the playing field for any person who has experienced wage discrimination and pay disparities in the past.