Since 2016, seven states, Puerto Rico, and six cities and counties have banned all employers from asking a job applicant about his or her salary history in one of the most significant efforts to shrink the gender wage gap. Even more states and localities have barred the question from city or state agencies.
Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which, among other policies, includes prohibiting employers from asking about a person’s previous compensation during the interview process. The bill now faces a difficult road in the Senate, which has a Republican majority and has blocked similar legislation in the past.
“Your salary history is completely irrelevant for the job you’re being hired to do,” says Kim Churches, the CEO of the American Association of University Women. “What is important: your education, your training, your skills, the assets you bring to a position, and the marketplace.”
In 2017, women earned around $0.80 for every dollar a man earned — and that gap is even larger for women of color, according to estimates from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. Despite ongoing advocacy and policy changes and efforts to raise awareness with days like Equal Pay Day, the wage gap has been fairly stagnant over the last decade or so.
Now, banning questions about salary history from the hiring process is one of the most prominent forces used in the fight against the gender wage gap, advocates say. The two are “intimately related,” explains Ariane Hegewisch, the program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “It’s like a chain reaction.”