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Don’t ask, don’t tell informs California law re prior salary history

How would you feel upon discovering that, while you are at least as qualified as a co-worker doing the same work as you, that employee makes a materially higher wage than you do?

We thought so.

Many workers across the country understandably lack specific data on the salary histories and specifics relevant to their fellow employees, but they nonetheless know that they’re being shorted. Unquestionably, they command commensurate skills and job acumen, yet their pay lags. They chafe under that.

Many of those employees – in fact, legions of them – are women. That work demographic has been comparatively stiffed in the market historically. A recent New York Times article notes that many women are underpaid compared with men doing similar work. A primary reason for that is because their response to employers’ queries regarding prior salary history reveals they were paid an unfairly low wage at their prior workplace.

That often brings a low-pay offer once again. For many women, it’s a pernicious cycle that is hard to break free from.

California law seeks to help. The Times notes a reason federal appellate court opinion holding that past salary can no longer be used in California “to justify a wage gap between male and female employees.”

That is not similarly the case in all states, and many California workers are likely still confronted by salary questions from hiring managers during job interviews, notwithstanding the recent court ruling.

It’s a dicey area of the law and one that continues to yield questions and challenges. Any person with queries and concerns might reasonably want to confer with experienced California employment law attorneys.

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