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Illegal to Ask Current Salary!

Massachusetts recently made it illegal to ask your salary in a job interview. This is big news. The law was passed to ensure equal pay for everyone. The political spotlight on equal pay for women helped drive these efforts. Fist bump to Massachusetts! You can read about it here: New York Times Article

Most companies make offers based at least partially on current salary. Of course, not all companies do this. But a lot of companies do. This will be a game changer, especially for women. Being underpaid early in a career can follow someone for a lifetime. It might just be $5k less in your first job. That turns into $10k in the next job and so on. If companies continue to offer based on current salary that becomes a huge gap 20 years into a career.

Indiana employers need to start thinking about this. Why?

I understand an employer wanting to pay as little as possible while still being fair. Ultimately an applicant can accept or decline. But, if the system itself is rigged and most companies employ this strategy, it can create a systematic problem. Hence the statistics showing women are on average paid less than men. Think about it this way: I might turn down a low ball offer b/c I’m confident I can find a better offer. But what if certain people don’t have that same confidence? They accept the low ball offer and it follows them for life unless a company ignores salary history and offers what they are worth.


Indiana may never pass this law but the opinion that it’s wrong to ask about salary is spreading. More candidates are challenging the salary history question. Here’s the trickle-down effect to companies and applicants if this question is taken out of the process:

Pro Tip: There is at least one company in Indianapolis that proactively offers what they call an equity(pay) raise if an employee is performing above their current pay scale level. So, yes, there are companies out there doing the right thing!

Will this lead to everyone making a lot more money? Of course not. Markets have a way of correcting themselves so it’s not like a huge percentage of people are being underpaid. I mean if everyone is underpaid…are they actually underpaid? Never mind. But it will help prevent someone from being low-balled at every step of their career. It will help close the gap between women and men in terms of pay. It will also equal out the playing field when it comes to negotiating salary. What’s not to like?

This obviously won’t change over-night. So how do you handle the salary question? I wrote about that earlier this year:  What Is Your Curren Salary?

An interesting angle to this topic is that I play a role in this. When I present a resume to my clients, some will ask for current salary. Some are curious. Some require it. Others just want to know if they will be within the range we’re working with. I have a responsibility to start having conversations about this.

Here’s an even better twist: I’d like to know your salary even though employers shouldn’t ask! I know, walking contradiction. I’ll explain myself next week!

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