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Majority backs ban on salary question

On May 4, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law legislation making it an unlawful discriminatory practice for employers to inquire about an applicant’s salary history or to base compensation decisions on prior salary history.

The move follows the passage of similar laws in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. Bills to the same effect are pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and other state legislatures. Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies from inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history.

This week’s RBJ Snap Poll asked readers their views of such a ban. Respondents were split on the question, with a majority supporting a ban.

The thinking behind such policies is if a woman already has fallen behind her male counterparts in salary, then inquiring about her salary when she applies for a job will increase the likelihood that she receives an offer with a lower salary than her higher-paid male counterpart would receive, even if they are equally qualified. A company knows it does not need to offer her as much to compete with her old salary as it needs to offer her higher-paid male counterpart.

Bloomberg, however, pointed out in an editorial that there is no data to suggest a question ban will make such a difference. “It’s policymaking by anecdote, driven by politicians eager to say they have taken action,” Bloomberg stated last month. “There is real danger, on the other hand, that such a ban could backfire. If employers are legally barred from asking about salary, they might instead guess at what an applicant earns — and guess lower if that person is female. That would seem especially likely if applicants who already earn top dollar routinely volunteer the information.”

Nearly 450 participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted May 16 and 17.

What is your view of a ban on employers asking job applicants about their salary history?

Support a ban on employers asking about salary history.               53%

Oppose a ban on employers asking about salary history.               47%


This is a classic example of the government’s effort to micro-manage businesses. I rarely ask for salary history from potential job applicants. Legislation like this (is) just offensive to the business community. This is the kind of attitude of nonstop government mandates that drives business offshore.

— Patrick Ho, Rochester Optical

My male counterpart has made more money than I in every situation. In two instances, I had more education and more experience than the white male in the comparable role. This is long overdue. Will things change? Not immediately but perhaps over time. Women and other underrepresented groups have long suffered at the hands of white males, and when is enough, enough?

— Joan Calkins, Rochester

I am more in favor of educating applicants on what they could earn or should be worth relative to where they live, their skill level, credentials and experience. If someone is offered a job and it is clearly lower than what they are worth or expected, the applicant can always negotiate, turn down the job or accept the offer, while the employer looking to hire is at risk of reducing their applicant pool if offering a poor benefits package. Salary is critical, but benefits, flexibility, continuing education, etc. all play a large role in the full benefits or offer package. At this point, I have only seen some high level data, but no actual examples of wage gaps, but I am concerned this proposed regulation could lower wages for everyone.

— Keith Newcomer 

Leave it to the bureaucracy, with its published pay grades to make it difficult for the private sector to get pertinent employment information. Anyone else surprised! Go big government!

— Tom Zimmerman, Z2 Architecture PLLC

Stop! Just stop! Government meddling in every aspect of our lives is our undoing.

— Matt Connolly

Anything that de Blasio is for has to be wrong! Asking for salary expectations is a reasonable way to deal with the issue.

— Dave Coriale

Having an applicant’s salary history enables the employers to “lowball” the salary offer rather than accurately matching salary to the requirements of the position and the qualifications of the candidate.

— Cassandra George Ramos

This is so silly; employers can run background, drug, credit and social media checks, now we’re worried about salary history? Privacy is dead!

— Daniel Herpst, Rochester

Another absolutely ridiculous policy. We are talking about a potential employment contract!  Of course salary should be discussed. Just more intent to coddle a socialist society. The capitalist employer is always the enemy, but where are the jobs? cries the unemployed?

— Doug Strang

Another bad idea with government intervention. How can a hiring company properly assess a candidate? If they make an offer to someone that is too low but that person is desperate for a job and they end up leaving after being trained, how does that help a company control their turnover? How can a company know what a sales rep made in commissions at a previous job if they can’t ask? We know that not all companies can pay the same. Just ask some of the people that came out of Kodak what looking for work was like. You will be looking at higher turnover in companies because one thing I have discovered after 21 years of recruiting is that not all applicants are truthful.

— Steve Neelin, CEO, Quality Recruiting

Ridiculous! Keep the government out of private enterprise decision-making. Logical next step is the government deciding what everyone should be paid and where does that lead us?

— Bruce Anderson

What happened to the time when jobs were posted with the salary? Then everyone applying would know if the job was worth their consideration. It is the employer’s job to know what the salary ranges are for the positions they need filled in their companies. The employer should choose the best candidate for the company. Not listing the salary for the position wastes a lot of people’s time. Of course people are looking to make more money, have better benefits and be in a position to move up in a company. It is a violation of the candidate’s privacy to ask past salary history.

—  Jennifer Apetz

A very bad idea to ask for previous salary; can only lead to problems for HR and everyone else in the company.

— Ken Pamatat, Creative Images

We have enough regulations and don’t need anymore. Small business is maxed out.

— John Rynne

When is the pendulum going to swing in favor of employers? Constantly hitting them only hastens their exodus from the state, and we will be looking more and more to casinos and corrupt schemes for employment.

— Jim Cronin

Salary history is a very personal issue. The reasons why someone chose their previous employer/salary could be myriad. A candidate for a job is competing and nothing should interfere with that process.  If “they’re blowing smoke” who doesn’t?  There’s still a principle: let the buyer beware!

— Hal Gaffin, Fairport

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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