Find out what New York employers can and cannot ask — and what it might mean for businesses that are hiring in the city

stock-photo-business-employment-populati-1857066-343112-editedOn October 31 of last year, a new law went into effect that bans employers of any size in New York from asking about job applicants’ previous pay. 

The Salary History Law, according to the New York Commission on Human Rights, was designed to help prevent wage inequality involving women and people of color by encouraging employers to set compensation based on a candidate’s qualifications.

New York employers now cannot:

  • Ask questions on job applications about candidates’ current or prior earnings or benefits
  • Ask a job applicant’s current or former employer about the applicant’s earnings or benefits
  • Search public records to learn about applicants’ earnings or benefits.
  • Set new hires’ compensation based on information about their current or prior earnings

If you’re a New York-based company, it’s imperative everyone in the organization who is involved in the hiring process — from HR professionals to employees who may participate in interviews — understands and complies with the various elements involved in the Salary History Law.

New York employers will also need to review their online application forms and any printed materials that are given to candidates to ensure the wording doesn’t include a salary history request — or anything that could be implied as such.

Can Employers Ask for Salary History if They’re Not Based in New York?

New York isn’t the only U.S. city to ban the line of questioning. Similar restrictions have been enacted in Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Oregon, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

However, even if the state or city a company is headquartered in hasn’t issued salary history-related regulations, the organization should carefully review the Salary History Law provisions if it plans to hire workers in New York — because they may apply, particularly if the interview takes place in the city. (Best practice guidance from the commission notes “there will likely be jurisdiction” if salary history questioning happens during an in-person conversation in New York City.)

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According to the law, employers can’t directly ask candidates about their salary history — but they can ask about a candidate’s salary expectations. As a result, companies that are planning to hire employees in New York may find it helpful to develop a defined salary range for various roles, if they haven’t already, to help them gauge whether candidates’ expectations are in line with what employees are typically paid to perform certain types of work.

Can Recruiters Ask About Salary?

The Salary History Law also applies to recruiters — which the law defines as “headhunters who qualify as employers, employment agencies or agents of an employer.”

Recruiters, too, should review the provisions. The commission also advises they obtain written confirmation that candidates consent to a headhunter disclosing their salary history during negotiations with a potential employer to protect against liability if a candidate happens to voluntarily offer salary history information at some point.

For more on New York’s law, view the commission’s employer fact sheet

For additional information on fine-tuning other hiring practices to more effectively find, screen and bring qualified candidates on board, view our blog posts on sizing up the talent competition, competing with companies that offer big work perks and 3 ways to improve your tech recruitment practices.

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