Banning This Question From Job Interviews Is a Step Towards Equal Pay

August 5th 2016

Tricia Tongco

When you're applying for a job, this question might make you sweat during the interview:

"How much did you make at your old job?"

The question could make you nervous if you weren't making much previously and want to increase your salary in your next gig. Well, starting in 2018, job seekers in one state can rest a little easier.

Massachusetts has just set a prime example by becoming the first state to pass legislation that would prohibit employers from asking an applicant (or their previous employers) about their salary history before offering them a position.

Instead, hiring managers must determine salaries based on merit-based factors, such as seniority, education, and training.

As the New York Times points out, the new law is a concrete effort to close the wage gap by "ensur[ing] that the historically lower wages and salaries assigned to women and minorities do not follow them for their entire careers." The Times adds, "Companies tend to set salaries for new hires using their previous pay as a base line."

So, rather than a woman having to worry about her unfairly depressed pay following her around for her entire career, she can get a fresh start when she starts a new job. 

"On average, full-time working women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns," states The White House website.

As you can see, existing equal pay laws have not been enough to end gender wage discrimination, and recently, there have been several high-profile women who have spoken out against wage discrimination in Hollywood, from Jennifer Lawrence to Patricia Arquette. But this Massachusetts law could serve as a model for other states to follow.

As Victoria A. Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women told The Times:

“This is a sea change, and we hope it will be used as a model in other states. [The law] will help every single individual who applies for a job, not just women.”

[h/t The New York Times]