New California Law Aimed at Closing the Gender Pay Gap Bans Employer Questions about Applicants’ Salary History

October 17, 2017

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will dramatically change hiring practices by barring employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.  AB 168, signed into law by the governor on October 12th, is intended to help close the pay gap between men and women.  Although the law itself does not mention gender, and applies to both men and women, it is based on the theory that questions about past salary allow pay discrimination to follow women from job to job.  Eliminating the salary history question, according to this theory, should help prevent women from continuing to be paid less than men in equivalent positions when they take a new job simply because they were paid less in a previous job.  The law goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

What does this mean for employers?  First, employers should review their job application forms to eliminate questions about past salary.  Employers should also train their hiring managers and interviewers not to inquire about applicants’ salary history.  Second, employers should be prepared to provide applicants with a salary range upon reasonable request, something the law also requires.  Notably, nothing in the law prevents employers from using past salary information if the applicant volunteers the information.

Now is a good time for employers to review their policies and procedures to ensure they are ready to comply with the law beginning January 1, 2018.  Please contact Puneet Sandhu (psandhu(at) or Harry Zinn (hzinn(at) at 213-362-1860 for further assistance on this new legal development.

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