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Asking about salary history may carry legal risks

Q&A with Tony Puckett

published in The Oklahoman | June 6, 2017

As part of the hiring process, many employers ask job candidates about their salary history and, more specifically, “How much did you make at your last job?” Sometimes the question is asked on an application. Other times it is asked during an interview. And while the question is a common one, there are efforts underway nationwide to ban the practice.

In a Q&A with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Tony Puckett said asking about one’s pay history is no longer without legal risks and consequences. Several courts have weighed in on the issue of pay disparity, and a number of states and cities have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking the question until a job offer is made.

“A number of lawmakers and commentators have expressed the view that an individual’s prior salary history continues the cycle of pay inequality,” he said. “Historically, women have been paid less than men for the same work. Asking a woman about her pay history often results in the employer’s pay decision being influenced by what the woman earned in her previous job, rather than being set based on market factors, such as job duties, the desirability of the position, the number of qualified applicants and the broader job market.”