Connecticut employers should prepare now for a new law that takes effect Jan. 1 prohibiting them from asking job applicants about salary history.
Public Act 18-8 does allow inquiries into other aspects of compensation, including retirement benefits, health benefits, and commissions—as long as employers do not ask about the value of those items.
State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure—intended to close gender-based salary gaps—during the 2018 legislative session.
CBIA HR counsel Mark Soycher urged employers to ensure that managers and other personnel who interview job candidates understand what they can and cannot ask an applicant.
"Training and policy updating should start now—not January 1, when the new law takes effect," Soycher said.
"Managers and supervisors who may be involved in screening or interviewing applicants must clearly understand what they may not ask about salary history."
Third Party Agencies
Companies that use hiring agencies, especially agencies from outside Connecticut, also must ensure those agencies are aware of the new law and its requirements.
And companies must also make sure employment application, or those of any job boards or electronic applications they use, do not ask about salary history.
Soycher stressed the importance of good documentation to avoid violations.
"While it is OK to ask an applicant what salary range they are seeking, it would be best to qualify that by stating that you are not asking what the applicant's salary history has been," he said.
Training and policy updating should start now—not January 1, when the new law takes effect.
"It may even be prudent to go so far as to explicitly advise applicants that asking for salary history is not permitted."
Employers who violate the law could face legal action, with potential liability for compensatory and/or punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, and other "legal and equitable relief as the court deems just and proper."
The new law does not apply if prospective employees voluntarily disclose their salary history, or when federal or state law specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of salary history for employment purposes.
Soycher cautions that the frequent unstructured nature of an interview can easily lead to discussion of forbidden topics such as salary history, or others, like parental status or career aspirations.
This can "poison" the data to be considered by the prospective employer, either intentionally or inadvertently, he said.
Soycher said a confident applicant may try to move the salary negotiation process toward their desired pay by preemptively setting a high bar, whereas an anxious applicant may seek to lower the bar by suggesting they are a less costly hire.
But if an applicant voluntarily discloses such information, which is permitted, interviewers must note that the applicant volunteered it.
Lastly, Soycher advises employers to do their homework.
"CBIA has a sample job application form without the salary history question, and can assist our members with job descriptions, gathering reliable wage data, and identifying compensation trends that will support your pay ranges," he said.
"That's are far more reliable, and perfectly legal, basis on which to set a new hire's pay rate than what they earned on the last job."