‘What’s your salary?’ Why New York banned employers from asking this question
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‘What’s your salary?’ Why New York banned employers from asking this question

Equal pay advocates have long argued that this question should be struck off the interview checklist.

world Updated: Apr 07, 2017 18:15 IST
Zehra Kazmi
Zehra Kazmi
Hindustan Times
Salary,HR,New York City Council

Everyone who appears for a job interview walks in expecting this question: What is your current salary?

What you answer determines the offer, all further salary negotiations and your final pay package. But what if this question was taken out of the interview process?

Well, the New York City Council has done just that. On Wednesday, the council voted to ban employers from asking what salary job applicants drew in their last jobs, the Washington Post reported. While applicants can volunteer their salary figure, the new measure strictly prohibits employers from trying to find out the applicant’s salary from previous employers or public records.

Equal pay advocates have long argued that when employers ask applicants their past salary, they end up negotiating around the same figure. This tips the balance heavily against women, people of colour and minorities, who are often underpaid, even when they do the same job. Since the quoted figure is low, companies make an offer based on the baseline, rather than what the candidate is worth.

The Post article quotes New York city’s Public Advocate Letitia James as saying that the move would affect about 3.8 million workers when it takes effect in six months. “Being underpaid once should not condemn one to a lifetime of inequity,” James said in a statement.

New York isn’t alone in the bid to ban queries regarding past salaries. Massachusetts was the first to pass a Pay Equity Bill last year, that barred employers from screening candidates based on their previous salary or asking salary-related questions. Earlier this year, Philadelphia passed the Wage History Bill that prohibits employers from asking about the salary history. The bill -- which is being challenged in court by the business community -- was aimed specifically at reducing the gender pay gap.

While HR experts have argued that asking about previous salary isn’t a way to cheat employees, but get them the best deal, many companies are open to striking off this question from their interview checklist of their own volition. They reason that without a previous salary figure hovering over the discussion, companies will have a chance to assess future employees on their market value.

Which brings us to a vital question: Indian companies, are you listening?

First Published: Apr 07, 2017 15:15 IST