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Can employers ask about your salary history?

Paying employees in the same job differently based on their gender, race, or religion, among other protected characteristics, is against the law. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and several other federal laws ensure that.

Unfortunately, employees across the country still face unfair wage discrimination. Therefore, several states – including New Jersey – are making efforts to decrease the rate of wage discrimination with salary history bans.

Salary history bans are fairly new but effective

Even though significant progress has been made over the years, a wage gap still exists between men and women in the workplace. For example, CNBC reports that women in New Jersey could lose more than $518,000 in their lifetime because of the persisting wage gap. The wage gap also continues to be much larger for people of color.

It seems that one primary reason the wage gap persists is because of many employers’ salary history requirements.

Asking about a potential applicant’s current or past salary has been a common inquiry during the hiring process for years. However, Forbes reports that inquiring of one’s salary results in a cycle of wage discrimination. Essentially, employers use one’s salary history to determine the salary they will offer, even if it does not match what other employees in that position earn.

That is why, beginning in 2016 with Massachusetts, many state lawmakers began to implement salary history bans. According to Forbes, these bans help to reduce the rate of gender and racial wage discrimination in the workplace.

New Jersey instituted a salary history ban

As of 2019, state law prohibits employers in New Jersey from asking applicants about their:

  • Past wages;
  • Salary history; or
  • Previous benefits.

Some employers might still attempt to ask applicants about their salary history, but that is now a violation of state law. All workers must be aware of the details of this law, so they can protect their rights in the workplace and ensure they receive the payment they deserve.



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