Can I Ask about a Job Applicant’s Salary History?

PayGap.jpgThis week, people across the country wore red in support of Equal Pay Day, which is a day to recognize, and to bring awareness to the gender pay gap. As noted in this recent Bloomberg article, statistics show that women still earn about 20 percent less than their male colleagues.

In response to movements like Equal Pay Day, some states are taking measures to close the gender pay gap. This movement has led some jurisdictions to implement laws that prohibit employers from asking employees about previous salaries.

Why are there salary history bans?

A growing number of states and local governments have passed measures to ban questions regarding salary histories from application forms and interviews. Supporters of the ban argue that basing a person’s salary on his or her previous salary only perpetuates a cycle of inequality. Women will continue to earn less than men simply because they always have.

However, other people disagree with state- and local-level initiatives. They argue that setting different rules for different jurisdictions creates unnecessary complications and confusion for employers.

Can Minnesota employers inquire about salary history?

In Minnesota, there is no ban on inquiring about an applicant’s salary history. However, companies are preemptively taking the question out of their interview process to avoid any perception of discrimination based on gender. (Same thing goes for work history and gaps in work history.)

In other words, while there is no law prohibiting the salary history question, many employers in Minnesota and across the country are reportedly choosing to stop asking it.

Can Minnesota co-workers discuss and compare their current salaries?

On a related (and contrasting) note, Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) allows employees to discuss and compare their salaries with each other. Furthermore, it specifically prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who voluntarily share that information with their colleagues.

What to do if you have questions about your rights

Unequal pay can lead to contentious legal battles, especially since the gender pay gap is currently a very visible, discussable, and newsworthy topic. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you should understand your legal rights with regard to pay and discrimination allegations. You can discuss the specific details of your situation with an experienced employment law attorney in Minnesota.