In the late 1970s, a mother who worked as a labor organizer in the 1950s imparted sage advice to her son on the way to one of his first professional interviews: keep your salary history private—it’s no one’s business but your own.
Not everyone’s parent have lived through a class struggle, and even if they have, who can resist a tough interviewer who throws out a question about past compensation? Employers have relied on that question to help them determine, irrationally, a job candidate’s merit and to arrive at a salary more advantageous to the employer.
What’s worse, employers have historically asked that question more when interviewing women, while men face that line of inquiry far less. We therefore applaud the new equal pay measure Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts signed Monday, August 1, 2016. Fittingly, Massachusetts enjoys a reputation of early support for equal pay since its first equal pay law in 1945.
As the first state to make the question about previous salaries illegal during job interviews, Massachusetts celebrates its historic role in employment law and best practices, further enhancing individual rights. No longer, we would hope, will we hear about an overheard conversation between interviewers rejecting a job candidate merely because her previous salary suggested less competence for the job she sought.
Another huge benefit of the measure (which joins 12 other U.S. state laws) prevents employers from disallowing their employees to discuss pay scales among themselves, and/or taking action against them if they do so. No longer can pay discrepancies based on gender or race remain in the dark. We also acknowledge and celebrate how other states—such as California, Maryland, and New York—have begun the process to eliminate bias and discrimination in the workplace.
While not everyone supports the new law, employers need to see the full picture and how it can be of great service to them as well. For example, one of the more impactful measures in the new requirement makes it far easier to defend against employee charges of wage discrimination.
Daylighting previously hidden salary figures, or agendas, makes perfect sense for both sides.