NH House bill would bar salary history question

Under measure, employers would be prohibited from asking job applicants how much they previously earned


Employers would not be able to ask a job applicant how much he or she was paid in the past, but the applicant could volunteer that information, if a proposed bill introduced last week in the NH House becomes law.

Rep. Jan Schmidt, D-Nashua, introduced House Bill 1222 mainly to help correct wage discrimination against women, she said, but it also could help minorities or even those who were thrown off their career path by the recession.

“Your salary follows you forever,” she told the House Labor Committee on Tuesday.

Schmidt said she got the idea when some human resources professionals confided to her that a new applicant pay offer “all depends on salary history” and advised her to simply lie about hers because “you are going to be punished for the last job you have.”

That means that women suffer, she said, since they generally enter the job market at a disadvantage, either because they were first steered toward a lower-wage job in the past, when wage discrimination was more blatant, or because they tend to go into service-oriented businesses or the nonprofit sector, which pay less.

Schmidt argued that past salary has nothing to do with future job performance, which can be gleaned through experience, education, recommendations and so forth.

Business groups mainly opposed the bill, as well as House Republican leadership, but they did offer any verbal testimony at the hearing.

But the state chapter of the AFL-CIO spoke in favor of it.

“Pay discrimination begins with that first paycheck,” said AFL-CIO policy director Judy Stadtman. “And the tendency is to drag that from job to job. Wage inequality is just baked into salary history.”

Rep. Leonard Turcotte, R-Barrington, raised a possible problem with the bill.

“Couldn’t I, as an employer, simply state, “By law I can’t ask about your salary history, but the law allows you to voluntarily disclose your past wages?” he asked.

That prompted Sen. Martha Fuller Clarke, D-Portsmouth to testify that the bill did not go far enough.

“It would still put a prospective employee in an awkward position,” she said. “That’s why we should prohibit discussing salary history across the board, whether it is voluntary or it is demanded. It all amounts to the same thing.”

Other information is off-limits, like marital status, she said. This would be just one more thing that couldn’t be discussed.

“Isn’t it rude to ask people how much they make?” chimed in Rep. Michael Cahill D-Newmarket.

“It used to be,” said Clark. “It is hard to determine what is rude anymore.”

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