Thursday, April 6, 2017

What The New NYC Law Making It Illegal To Ask for Salary History Mean For You

For years I have actually been telling candidates not to fill out their salary history on written applications.  It is no one’s business.  Yesterday, the New York City Council wisely made it law that companies cannot ask for or use this information while hiring.  Its purpose is to help close the gender pay gap.  The law takes effect in 90 days. 

Just two weeks ago, I wrote why recruiters need salary information. I stand by that post.  However, I am firmly in favor of equal pay and, if salary history is used to suppress pay for any employee, it is wrong.  Companies will and have done anything they can to keep salaries as low as possible – it is the largest single expense of any employer.

This law is a specious law which, by itself, will not help women to earn more.  However, I am totally in favor of any method which will help prevent pay discrimination. For honest companies and honest recruiters, salary is one method of putting a career in perspective. I, for one, have never used this information to pay women less than men.  My head just doesn’t work this way. However, I do know that companies will find a way around this question.  The law, as I understand it, allows people to volunteer this information – companies will find a nice way of getting their applicants to provide it. One way would simply be to ask a job applicant if the anticipated salary on a particular job is ok with the candidate.

Prospective employees generally do not withhold any information.  Companies have always found a way of determining marital status, ethnicity and age despite the fact that asking is illegal.
In advertising, I actually do not see a gender pay gap at any level.  In my observation, male and female executives in account management, media management, planning and creative are making similar salaries. These days, for both men and women, advertising salaries are low compared to many other professions.  Because of long hours and low pay, working in advertising is a labor of love.  We all know that if one is looking for money, there are many other fields which pay better.  I have advised many candidates, both male and female, to reject jobs which pay too low.

There is, however, a glass ceiling – there are too few women in the C suites of the big agencies.  That is the bigger issue.  And because there are too few women at that level, it is difficult to make comparisons between their pay and those of their male counterparts.

But this law may be a step in the right direction for many companies.


  1. To gender equality, equal pay, “glass ceiling”, diversity, NYC’s new equal pay law, and all that, let me just say this …
    Most private or public companies, government entities, NGOs, non-profits, et al, have pre-set annual hiring budgets based on anticipated manpower requirements, hourly rates, or base salaries. Perhaps with benefits. Bonuses and performance incentives to be negotiated. But let’s not confuse the minimum wage with equal pay, because they’re two very different things – especially when it comes to unions and the military.
    Which is to say … If ALL employers interviewing candidates simply said, “Here’s the job. Here’s what it pays. Take it or leave it”, this whole equal pay issue would go away. Salary history and expectations being totally irrelevant to hiring the best talents, however measured and evaluated. Because if an employee performs beyond expectations, they usually get promoted. And if not, they’re fired (except in Federal, State, or Local government, where we just keep recycling the same under-performers).

  2. And hey Paul ... Glad to see you now writing and posting more than once a week on "View From ..." Because writing is FUN; keeps us sharp; and you have a lot of good stuff to say.


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