Friday, August 5, 2016

In 2018, it will be illegal to ask for salary history in Massachusetts

From the New York Times, an interesting development:
In a groundbreaking effort to close the wage gap between men and women, Massachusetts has become the first state to bar employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before offering them a job. The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position. 
...Nationally, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the United States Census Bureau. A number of factors affect that statistic, including the career fields women choose, but economists consistently find evidence of pay disparities not offset by other variables. 
...The Massachusetts law, which will go into effect in July 2018, takes other steps as well to combat pay discrimination. Companies will not be allowed to prohibit workers from telling others how much they are paid, a move that proponents say can increase salary transparency and help employees discover disparities.
I find asking for salary histories pretty crummy, from the perspective of a job-seeker. (I gotta say, it has always seemed to me to be the employer saying "please lie to me" as well.) I could imagine some unknown unintended consequences happening, but I'm no soothsayer.

Boston is the trendsetter, I suspect, for salaries and benefits in the biotech/pharma industry; it will be fascinating to see how this cascades out (or doesn't) into the rest of the industry. 


  1. This is good news. Maybe it will spread throughout the country soon after; I find it a very tacky and borderline useless question. I turned down an offer from a company where the HR woman would not get over asking me salary questions every time we spoke. After telling how much I made and said I would like more, I got an offer for $10k less per year and no relocation, which I specified I absolutely needed relocation if I was to move from the midwest to PNW.

    If it were acceptable, I would say to any HR rep on phone interviews "Don't worry about what I make. Worry about what I want to make"

    1. I would say it anyway, as long as you're speaking from a current position that is tolerable. A mistake most people make is to wait until they absolutely can't stand where they are to start looking. Even if things are ok where you are, you should always keep your options open, and bargaining from a position of desperation nearly guarantees that you'll get taken advantage of.

  2. @Anon 1212 - I have said similar things to companies.