Can an Employer Ask About Your Salary History When You Apply for a Job?

In the state of California, employers can’t ask you about your salary history when you’re applying for a job. Here’s what you need to know about this unlawful question and why some employers try to find out your salary history anyway.

Can an Employer Ask About Your Salary History When You Apply for a Job?

Employers are not allowed to ask you about your salary history, and they must provide a pay scale for a position if an applicant asks. That helps ensure transparency and fairness – and that workers performing the same duties are paid roughly similar amounts of money.

Thanks to Assembly Bill No. 168 (or AB 68 for short), employers can’t:

  • Rely on your salary history as a factor in determining whether to hire you or what salary to offer you
  • Seek out your salary history information through other sources (including about your compensation and benefits)
  • Refuse to give you a pay scale for the position you’re applying for

The idea behind the legislation was to reduce the gender wage gap in California, as well as address other issues. The law applies to all employers, too – including state and local governments.

Related: Can an employer require employees to speak English on the job?

Why Would Employers Ask for Your Salary History?

Often, employers ask for salary history to find out how much you expect to receive – and to see how much you’re worth to other employers. However, employers in California can’t ask you about your salary history. They’re also not allowed to seek your salary history through a third party.

You can, however, provide information about your pay history if you want to. You are by no means required to.

Related: Can you be fired for talking about religion at work?

Why Do Many People Prefer Not to Disclose Salary History?

Many people choose not to disclose salary history because they fear it will limit how much a new company will offer them for a job. If you were underpaid in your previous job, you don’t want that to follow you to a new job.

Should You Ask About a Salary Range for a Job You’re Interested In?

If you want to know how much money you’ll make if you accept a job, ask the employer. Employers must give you a pay scale for the position. It may be a wide variation at both ends, but at least you’ll have a minimum point and a maximum point for what’s possible. Many people find it helpful to say something like, “I’d like to be respectful of your time, and I’m looking for a specific salary range. Would you mind sharing that upfront?”

Related: Can you sue an employer for firing you while pregnant?

Can You Sue if an Employer Asks About Your Salary History?

If an employer asks you about your salary history, which is a violation of California law, you may be able to file a complaint or even file a lawsuit against the employer. However, every situation is different, and you may want to speak with an attorney about your case.

If you do file a lawsuit, you may be able to seek monetary damages (a financial payment) or equitable relief. Equitable relief is a court-granted remedy that requires one party to act or refrain from doing something; in this case, it would likely require the employer to stop asking people about their salary history. (However, it’s worth noting that California employers are already barred from asking applicants about their salary history.)

Often, people are able to recover the costs associated with filing a lawsuit, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About an Employer Asking You for Your Salary History?

If an employer has asked you about your salary history, you may have legal recourse – and you may be able to prevent the employer from asking others about their salary histories, as well. Call our office at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation now.


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