Ask the Expert: Can We Ask About Applicants’ Salary History?

Question: Can salary history/previous salary on an on-line application be asked as a question?

Answer: Thank you for your inquiry regarding asking for salary history on an online application.

Salary history became a trending topic of interest among local, state, and federal lawmakers in 2016, as several pieces of legislation have been proposed to prohibit employers from asking applicants for their salary history.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that has passed such a law. Specifically, effective July 1, 2018, Massachusetts employers would be prohibited from asking a job applicant about his or her salary—at least until an offer of employment (including compensation) has been extended.

You have noted that your jurisdiction is New York. Currently, New York state does not prohibit asking applicants about salary history; however, if you are developing an online application that may be used by candidates in multiple states and/or if this application is intended to be used for quite some time, for convenience you may wish to omit the salary history question from the form in the event that comparable legislation is passed.

For example, both California and New York City proposed legislation that would prohibit employers from considering salary history in hiring decisions. A similar federal law was also introduced in September. While this legislation has not yet passed, salary history is likely to resurface as a trending legislative topic—particularly in the states—in 2017, so omitting the question from your application (and saving it, if needed and appropriate, for the interview or post-offer stage) may be more effective.