At this blog, we’ve written extensively about the proliferation of legislation at the state and local level to prohibit employers from inquiring about the salary or wage history of job applicants. As with state and local laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, laws restricting employers from making wage inquiries during the application process have become a growing trend across the country in the absence of federal action in this area. Sponsors of these measures describe their efforts as part of a broader public policy goal: closing the gender wage gap.
Now, Maine has joined the (growing) ranks of states that have passed laws on this point:
Earlier this month, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law that makes it illegal in most cases to try to find out the salary history of a potential employee.
It’s not uncommon to ask for salary history even at the earliest stages of a job application. But studies have shown that the practice hurts women, people of color and people with disabilities, and it affects them more and more as they move through their careers, to the tune, in some cases, of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When the law takes effect 90 days after lawmakers adjourn, Maine will be the eighth state to prohibit the practice.
Maine’s new law prohibits employers from using or inquiring about an applicant’s compensation history, until after an offer of employment has been made that includes all terms of compensation. Nor may employers seek an applicant’s compensation history from the applicant’s prior employers.
However, the law does not prohibit applicants from voluntarily disclosing compensation history. There is also a carveout; the law does not apply to employers who make compensation history inquiries pursuant to a federal or state that “that specifically requires” disclosure or verification of compensation history for purposes of employment.
Critically, Maine’s new law states that an employer’s inquiry “either directly or indirectly” about an applicant’s compensation history is evidence of unlawful employment discrimination. In other words, employer practices that may have previously been routine have now been classified as discriminatory. Employers should review their hiring policies and practices in light of this new law and should continue to monitor the growing trend of these laws at the state and local level across the country.