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More states ban employers from asking salary history

(BUSINESS NEWS) A practice that has yet to die is actually illegal in many states, with more to come – asking a candidate’s salary history.

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The hiring process ideally should feel like a conversation between partners: both parties have a mutual problem to solve. The company is willing to pay someone to help to fill whatever skills or labor vacancy they have, and applicants are looking to contribute meaningfully and secure a paycheck.

However, the reality is that companies generally come to the hiring process in a more powerful position than anyone applying and they can use that position to undercut their applicant. This is such a blatant and bullying power grab that it’s almost universally acknowledged that it is in the candidate’s best interest to avoid providing this information if at all possible.

Several states and some cities are seeking to equalize this negotiation by banning or restricting the information about salary history that corporations can require. Among the growing list are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Vermont.

City initiatives can be found in Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

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Meanwhile other states, like Wisconsin and Michigan have banned the banning of asking about salary history, presumably in an effort to woo corporate investment in their states by throwing their constituents earning potential under the bus.

Hopefully the banning of asking about salary history will continue to spread, perhaps even reaching a nation-wide level, because it will increase the earning potential for millions of Americans and retiring a lazy corporate “tactic.”

Yes, those scare quotes are necessary. This isn’t a strategic move. It is shortsighted and implies that the company isn’t as confident as it appears; as Nick Corcodilos puts it, “It’s a tacit admission that they don’t know how to judge a job candidate’s value for themselves.”

When a company asks a candidate for their salary history, it means they are trusting another organization over the candidate. You wouldn’t call up your new partner’s ex and expect an unbiased report, why would you trust your employees old boss to?

One of the reasons a good job applicant may be looking for new opportunities is because they have focused on increasing their value beyond what their current employer is willing or able to compensate them for, and this move says to the candidate “I will only find you as valuable as other employers have in the past,” as opposed to “Let’s look at the value you bring to us.”

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As your organization (and your employees) move forward, my sincerest wish is that you’ll find increasing value in each other — and that your focus will be on what you’re accomplishing together, not how your employee has been treated in the past.

AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

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