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Can salary history laws reduce the pay gap and promote workplace equality?

Anyone who has applied for a job has probably had to tell the potential employer how much they earned in their previous jobs, either in the interview process or in an application. Given the current trends, however, it is quite possible employer requests for salary history will become a thing of the past.

Salary history requests could reinforce the pay gap between men and women

When employers know how much a job applicant has earned in the past, it will factor into their own compensation decisions. Consequently, men who earned more money in previous jobs than women are more likely to earn even more in future positions. Per Census Bureau data, women earn 79 cents for each dollar men earn. While the pay gap has many causes, salary history laws could be one way to minimize this gap.

Laws barring employers from asking about salary history are increasingly common. Last year Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law barring employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are considering similar bills. At the level of city government, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to enact a salary history law.

Maryland Assembly considers salary history bill

Here in Maryland, the General Assembly is considering a bill that would do two things:

  • Employers with 15 or more employees would be required to include salary information in job postings
  • Employers in certain fields would be barred from asking prospective employees about salary history during the interview process. Employers would also be barred from requiring salary history while making a job offer.


This bill passed the House of Delegates 94-7 and is now before the Maryland Senate. House of Delegate sponsor Karen Lewis Young stated that barring questions about salary history could be "one way to balance pay scales" between men and women.

These laws do not prevent job applicants from discussing salary

Some are concerned that these laws would actually prevent job applicants from fully leveraging their own negotiation skills to obtain the highest possible salary. It is important to note these laws only prevent employers from asking about prior compensation and not job applicants or employees.

Employment law is a complex topic that demands effective, forward-thinking legal counsel. Employees and employers throughout Maryland have placed their trust in Thatcher Law Firm to resolve employment law challenges on favorable terms.

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