Why Employers Shouldn't Ask for Salary History from Job Applicants | Equal Rights Advocates
Fighting for Women's Equality

Why Employers Shouldn’t Ask for Salary History from Job Applicants

July 11, 2017 | by

The Stronger California Advocates Network strongly supports AB 168 (Eggman), which would prohibit employers from seeking salary history information about applicants for employment and would require an employer, upon reasonable request, to provide the pay scale of a position to an applicant.

As of 2015, women in California overall made roughly 86 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The disparity is even larger for women of color. Asian women make 73 cents, African American women 63 cents, Native American women 51 cents, and Latina women just 43 cents on the dollar compared to white, non-Hispanic men. As a result, California women lose a combined total of approximately $78.6 billion each year to the wage gap. 

But this is not just a woman’s issue – one woman’s pay gap means a whole family’s economic instability. In 2015, more than half of working mothers were breadwinners or co-breadwinners in their family. So this earnings gap accumulates to also harm their children, families, and the overall economy of their community.

This gap isn’t gradual; it appears as soon as a woman enters the workforce. Research shows that women earn less than men starting just one year out of college, even when controlling for factors like major, occupation, and hours worked. The same holds true for female graduates of business school, who start at lower salaries than men with MBAs despite having similar career paths, performance, and education.

By prohibiting employer inquiry into prior salary, AB 168 would help to disrupt the perpetuation of past pay discrimination and ensure that women have an opportunity to earn the same as their male counterparts. The historically lower wages generally offered to women and minorities would no longer put those job applicants on uneven playing fields for salary negotiations throughout their careers.

AB 168 passed through the state Assembly with strong bipartisan support in May and passed through the state Senate’s Labor and Industrial Relations Committee in mid-June. Today, the bill passed out of the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, where ERA Senior Staff Attorney Jessica Stender testified in support.

We applaud the bill’s author Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, and principal coauthor Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, for bringing this critical issue to the legislature. If AB 168 is enacted, California will follow Massachusetts, and join a growing number of cities and localities, to ban employers from asking about applicants’ prior salaries. It will also follow the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote in June of this year to ban employer inquiry into prior salary.

The momentum is growing for this legislation, and ERA will fight until all women have equal pay, regardless of zip code.

Emma Eastwood-Paticchio is an ERA law clerk. Learn more about her here. 

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