Massachusetts Passes Law Barring Employers From Asking Applicants About Their Salaries

Charlie_Baker_official_portraitMassachusetts has passed a law (signed by Gov. Charlie Baker) which for the first time would bar employers from asking job applicants about their salaries.  It is designed to prevent pay disparity for women. However, it could create uncertainty on how to address a key piece of information used to gauge wage offers for employees.

The law was passed unanimously in the Massachusetts state legislature and signed by a Republican governor. It is a measure strongly supported by Hillary Clinton.

This is a major change to job interviews.  The new law states in part:

 (c) It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to:

(1) require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, including benefits or other compensation, or about any other employee’s wages;

(2) screen job applicants based on their wage, including benefits or other compensation or salary histories, including by requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history satisfy minimum or maximum criteria; or request or require as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment, that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary history;

(3) seek the salary history of any prospective employee from any current or former employer; provided, however, that a prospective employee may provide written authorization to a prospective employer to confirm prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history only after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee;

So it appears that the employee can disclose the information or it can be sought with authorization after an offer is made.  It is not clear what will be prohibited in terms of discussion of salary when an applicant is asked about the salary that he or she expects.  The law is likely to create gray areas for interviewers as to what is considered an inquiry into wages.  Moreover, it could be argued that the most direct way of addressing wage disparity is to compare the actual wages as opposed to barring interview questions.  Conversely, the law will force employers to offer wages at what is viewed as the market rate as opposed to individual’s expected or accepted earnings.

What do you think?


52 thoughts on “Massachusetts Passes Law Barring Employers From Asking Applicants About Their Salaries”

  1. ‘Jay S’, August 9, 2016 at 3:17pm:

    I agree with your observation about jobs. If an applicant isn’t already employed, h/she not in a position of strength. As jobs are are rare and hard to find/land, an applicant would probably be inclined to just acquiesce, and give the information.

    BUT, when a recruiter/employer has an applicant’s prior salary history, that information WILL be used to put the applicant at an economic disadvantage (another position of weakness) during any negotiation of future salary / employment terms.

    If a recruiter/employer DEMANDS to always have the upper hand, what else during the employment relationship will the recruiter/employer DEMAND to have the upper hand about? It is far better for the applicant to walk away right from the start, because nothing but trouble will follow.

    I base my advice from study with professional employment counseling company (name redacted) in the Princeton NJ area. I have successfully used the education I received from them. They know what they’re talking about …

  2. Paul

    The article is about hiring not promoting. Of course after a worker is hired, settled in, and given an opportunity to perform; if they do exceptionally well they should be rewarded. That is another topic. The point of the law is to prohibit employers from requiring this information.

  3. SkaterDude –
    In your scenario, the recruiter has a job, and the applicant doesn’t. And when you don’t have a job, getting up and walking out of an interview takes more than a little internal fortitude.

  4. Recruiter: “What was your salary at your last position?”
    Applicant: “Are you making an employment offer?”
    Recruiter: [insistent] “No. But, I still need it for our records”.
    Applicant: “Well, I don’t think this will be a good fit for either of us. Good day”.


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