Career Corner: Salary Laws – Are They Helping?

In California, the law prohibits employers, or recruiters, from asking job applicants about their salary history but they may ask about salary expectations. – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

I hope you’ve heard the exciting news! Many states and some cities have updated their hiring laws. In many places, employers can no longer ask your current salary. And, in some, the laws are even more specific. In California, if a candidate asks for the salary range for a job, the company is required to provide it.

These changes are being put into place to help even the playing field on pay. It’s excellent news all around. First, even people in locations not covered by the new laws are benefiting. Some companies are adopting these changes corporate wide.

Not asking how much you make can help in two ways. If you’re currently underpaid for any reason, your future salary won’t be based on your past salary. This means that you can make more and be paid fairly more quickly. And, if you’re looking to downgrade your career for any reason (or just change to a different path that pays less), you won’t have the employer asking why you want to take a pay cut. You won’t be dropped just for making too much money. (And, yes, this really happens.)

Employers do still typically ask how much you want to be paid. But, you can find information about pay on sites like Glassdoor.com that will help you to answer this question when it comes up. (And, it does come up in the very first screening call, so be prepared with an answer!)

But, this is what I’m wondering. I have seen a number of cases lately where the company (in a regulated state) is choosing to operate in the old fashioned way. They’re still asking salary history and they’re refusing to provide a salary range when asked. This seems especially prevalent when a recruiter is helping to place for a position in a state where the recruiter doesn’t reside. They don’t seem to be up to date on the laws in other states.

So, what’s a job seeker to do? This is such a hard question and honestly not one I have a clear answer to at this point. You can (and should) push back on this question if you feel comfortable. But, be aware, you will catch more flies with honey. Telling the recruiter that they’re breaking laws by asking you certain questions is likely not the way to get a job offer.

That’s the problem with these great new laws. As a job seeker, your goal is to land a job. It’s not to change the world. If you take the time to stand up for this issue, you could very likely lose the job opportunity. But, on the flip side, if job seekers stay quiet on this issue, it’s never going to change.

If you have encountered this issue, I’d love to hear from you and how you handled it. It’s an important and sticky issue that we are all working through today.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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