California to be First State in the Nation to Prohibit Employers from Seeking Prior Salary History AB 1676 (Campos)
Sacramento, CA – On the 7th Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, California is poised to do even more to eliminate the gender pay gap. Assembly Bill 1676 authored by Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-27), would prohibit employers from asking prospective employees for their salary history.
At first glance, it may not be obvious why asking about a job applicant’s prior salary history is sex discrimination. It wasn’t in the too distant past that it was not recognized as a problem to ask about a woman’s marital status or plans to have children but now those questions are universally recognized as basis for discrimination. Specifically for the issue prior salary history, the idea to base a new wage on the old, possibility discriminatory wage, simply perpetuates the discrimination. Instead a woman should be judged on her qualifications for the position.
If she meets the qualifications with her education, experience and training, she should be paid consistent with the amount the employer has determined to be fair compensation. Period.
This is not a matter of women being unwilling or unable to negotiate their salaries. While women tend to negotiate less often on their salaries, even when they do, they can be perceived negatively and not obtain the salary a similarly situation man would. A growing number of companies and entities are recognizing the inherent, perhaps even unconscious discrimination and are changing their policies. These entities include Google, Reddit, and even the Federal Government.
While Lilly Ledbetter was the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Act at the Federal Level, California has our own Lilly Ledbetter on the prior salary issue in Aileen Rizo. Ms. Rizo’s employer based her incoming salary on her old, causing a disparity of $20,000/year from what her peers made. Upon discovering this disparity, Ms. Rizo asked her employer about the basis of her salary with the answer being it was from her prior (low) salary, regardless of her extensive qualifications. Her lawsuit against her employer is currently in process.
By prohibiting an employer from seeking a job applicant’s prior salary history, adding the question to the list of other prohibited questions such as marital status, the applicant starts from a less biased negotiating position.
In 2015, California made national news with SB 358 (Jackson) updating the Fair Pay Act to be the strongest gender pay law in the nation. Now it is easier for employees to prevail in wage discrimination lawsuits based on sex. SB 358 will help remedy wage discrimination once it occurs, but also needed is a way to prevent wage discrimination in the first place, and AB 1676 responds to that call.
AB 1676 is sponsored by the American Association of University Women – California Chapter, California Employment Lawyers Association, Equal Rights Advocates, and California NOW.
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