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Illegal to Ask Salary History: Why This Woman Is Sharing Her Story to Warn Others | Fairygodboss
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After Being Illegally Asked for Her Salary History, This Woman Is Warning Others
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AnnaMarie Houlis image
AnnaMarie Houlis,
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Journalist & travel blogger
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After being illegally asked for her salary history, an anonymous Los Angeles-based FGB'er shared her story with the FGB community to warn other women and ask for help.

"I'm interviewing for a new role outside my company and the recruiter asked me my current salary," she writes on the community board, noting that her recruiter is based in Chicago, another city, which is why she was first unsure about the legality of his question. "It is illegal to ask a woman her salary in California so, at first, I deflected the question and said it would depend on the total comp package. Then he asked me again several times and said that, because there was so much competition for this job, he insisted on me giving him a number so neither of us wastes our time."

The woman says that she felt pressured and uncomfortable, especially as he continued: "Well, I need to make sure you aren't going to ask for $500k or anything."

When she told him her salary history, he assured her that they were on the same page and that she was "in the range" for the role. Still, she says she felt "unsettled and unsure of the whole experience." She went on to explain her conflicting thoughts:

"This is a highly coveted position at a startup about to go IPO, and I really want this job, but this experience left me with a bad taste in mouth," she explains in her post. "I called a friend and asked if I did the right thing given his insistence. She told me I shouldn't have shared my salary, and they could make me a lower offer because I did that — and that also it was illegal for them to ask in the first place. I didn't know what else I should have done. She suggested I should have asked instead for the range for the position and told him whether or not my expectations were in line with the band, rather than providing my exact salary. 

"Now I'm really confused and feel like I messed up, but I was also afraid he wouldn't put me through to the next round without knowing my compensation, and he was putting a lot of pressure on me to tell him...  It made me feel like I had to as to not cause waves in the conversation.

"I did make the next round, and now I'm afraid I've accidentally low-balled my own offer if I get the job. My friend suggested in my next interview I ask for the range for this role, but they already know what I make. Help!"

Indeed, cities, states and territories around the United States have banned employers from asking for a job candidate's pay history. While some laws solely ban public employers from asking, others ban both public and private employers.

The laws have been put in place in many cities, in large part, to close the gender wage gap. In 2016, American women earned just about 80 percent as much as their male counterparts — $0.85 for every dollar earned by men. By inquiring about women's salary history, employers may perpetuate the trend of underpaying women.

Here are the locations in which employers are banned from asking questions pertaining to salary history.

California

California has totally banned both public and private employers from asking about a candidate's salary history. The law took effect in January 2018.

Delaware

Delaware has, too, banned all employers, both public and private, from asking candidates about their salary history. The law took effect in December 2017.

Massachusetts 

Massachusetts has banned all employers, both public and private, from asking about a candidate's salary history. This law took effect in July 2018.

New Orleans

New Orleans has banned questions pertaining to salary for all city departments and employees of contractors who work for the city. This means that it only impacts candidates who are interviewing for the city of New Orleans.

New York City

New York City has banned both public and private employees from asking about a candidate's salary history. The law took effect in October 2017.

Oregon

Oregon has banned all employers, again both public and private, from asking about a candidate's salary history. The took into effect in January 2019.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia has also banned all employers from asking about candidates' salary history. The rule was supposed to take effect on May 23, 2017 but a judge had temporarily halted it following a lawsuit from the Chamber of Commerce. At the end of April 2018, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg issued a "preliminary injunction" regarding a City of Philadelphia ordinance that bans employers from asking about a candidate's salary history and using those histories to set wages.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has banned city agencies from asking about candidates' salary history. The rule only impacts city employees.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has banned all employers from asking about a candidate's salary history. The law took effect in March 2018.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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