Salary History Bans Pose Challenges to Employers, Employees

As some states outlaw inquiries into salary histories of job candidates, Talent Economy explores reasons why and what employers should do.

At the beginning of 2018, California enacted a “salary privacy bill,” requiring that employers no longer ask potential job candidates about their salary history. Employers must also provide a salary range for a job when an applicant requests it.

Other cities and states already have versions of this law; asking for salary histories is illegal in New York City, New Orleans, Oregon and Puerto Rico. By July of 2018, it will also be the case in Massachusetts and San Francisco. Philadelphia has similar laws, but its Chamber of Commerce brought up legal challenges based on alleged violations of First Amendment rights.

The aim of these laws is to reduce the gender pay gap that is prevalent between men and women. According to the United States Census Bureau, women made 80.5 cents for every $1 men made in the U.S. in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, when controlling for those who worked full time annually. This is improving for young workers ages 25 to 34, according to Pew Research Center. In 1980, the wage gap among this group was .67:1, improving to .9:1 in 2015. Still, there is work to be done.

“If you ask a candidate about their past history, you could potentially base their current or future pay on what they were paid in the past,” said Angela Preston, senior vice president and counsel for corporate ethics and compliance at New York City-based Sterling Talent Solutions, a background screening company. “If they had a wage gap or a pay gap, it could perpetuate that wage gap and lead to wage discrimination.”

With bans on asking job candidates for salary history, what will be the results and challenges for employers and employees?

Winners and Losers in the Law

Many forces are at play here, but experts agree that employees stand to benefit most from these laws.

“I certainly think it benefits candidates coming in and starting with a level playing field,” Preston said. Job searchers will feel empowered to not have to answer certain questions that could put them at a disadvantage in terms of pay. Also, candidates will see a focus away from salary and more on their qualifications, Preston said. Requirements of the job and the market for those skills will be the basis for salaries.

Employers, however, will face greater challenges in negotiating wages and pleasing their future staffers.

“While the spirit of the law is noble, and I understand the intention, I think the danger here is if you use salary as an equality number, what’s going to happen is it’s not going to transfer very well,” said Russ Riendeau, partner at Jobplex Inc., an executive search firm based in Chicago. Without a number in mind, it’s hard for a company to determine the value of a person in a job. “It seems fair that I would want to know what your history of success is. If I’m going to invest in you, I’m getting good value for my investment.”

Additionally, it’s hard for employers to negotiate with potential hires. “If I don’t know what you made, how do I know where to begin?” Riendeau asked. Without being able to verify salaries via references, as outlawed in New York City, job candidates could lie about their salary and exploit the business, Riendeau said. Furthermore, companies don’t want to insult candidates by starting with too low of a salary.

Employers like to use applicants’ current salary to eliminate their candidate pool at both ends of the spectrum, both at the highest and lowest salaries, said Hassan Enayati, research associate at the Institute for Compensation Studies, Industrial Labor Relations School at Cornell University. Candidates with very low salaries might be perceived as less qualified, while individuals with very high salaries could be viewed as unattainable. “Then, the employer can use the knowledge of a candidate’s salary history to offer a wage high enough to attract the candidate but less than the maximum wage the employer is willing to pay for that position,” he said. Without a salary history, this process becomes more difficult.

Responsibilities of Employers, Employees

One of the main concerns facing employers is how to remain compliant, especially when a company operates in multiple states or jurisdictions, Sterling’s Preston said. For example, in New York, it’s acceptable to ask about salary expectations, but this is not lawful in California. If a person volunteers their salary information, it’s OK for employers to use the information in California, but not in Oregon.

“If you’re an employer, and you are doing business in both New York and California, you have some very different requirements,” Preston said. She encourages clients to look at these rules at a high level to see what universal changes to make that will be applicable across multiple jurisdictions.

To avoid legal troubles, Preston advises that business leaders do the following:

  1. Train hiring managers and staff on the laws and differences by location.
  2. Remove salary questions from the job applications.
  3. Take salary questions out of the reference-checking process. If the company has a standard question list for reference checking, remove questions of salary, commission and bonuses.
  4. Document the process. Whatever changes the company has made to policies should be noted. If the company has hired contractors doing interviewing, be sure to have the restrictions documented in agreements. And if interviews are in-house, take notes and be sure to document the nature of the questions and how applicants respond, “so that you do have proof in the event that you’re challenged,” Preston said.

While much of the onus is on employers, applicants will need to be educated as well. They should know what questions are appropriate where they’re looking for work, Preston said. Additionally, if an employer can’t ask about bonuses or commissions, the onus is going to be on the applicant to say what they need or expect out of the job.

Jobplex’s Riendeau added that job candidates can also be advocates for themselves by presenting logical reasons for their worth. If they share ways they’re improving their skills and how they would help the company increase profits, they can negotiate higher salaries.

Results of Salary History Ban

Will the intention of these laws come to fruition?

Following the salary history ban in Massachusetts, PayScale conducted a survey of 15,413 job seekers to see if they disclosed their pay history during the interview process. As written in Harvard Business Review, PayScale found that if a woman was asked about her salary and refused to answer, she received 1.8 percent less than women who did disclose salaries. Men who refused to disclose salaries saw offers 1.2 percent higher than men who shared their history. This displays that salary history disclosures impact women differently than men.

“As with any data analysis, individual circumstances may vary, so it’s entirely possible that sometimes revealing your salary does negatively influence your offer,” wrote Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy for PayScale, in the HBR piece. “However — at a macro level — that’s not typically what’s happening. These findings seem to undercut the whole premise of banning the salary history question in order to level the playing field for women when it comes to compensation.”

Additionally, with these new laws, there is a balancing act between employers and employees. Sterling’s Preston noted that risk of litigation has companies spooked and could have a chilling effect on their ability to bring in the best talent or negotiate salaries. Still, she remains hopeful.

“I think that the hope is that this all leads to a better work environment, a fair marketplace that is based actually on market data and that hiring decisions will be made based on the actual job requirements and skill level that’s required of the applicant,” Preston said.

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McKinney Joins Jobplex as Partner


CHARLESTON (January 2, 2018) – Jobplex, Inc. is pleased to announce that Gary McKinney has joined the firm as Partner. McKinney is a multifaceted strategic business leader and talent management expert with demonstrated success driving all aspects of the human resources value chain. He provides leadership in the process of identifying talent requirements, and leading the talent acquisition and development process.

Prior to joining Jobplex, McKinney worked as a CHRO for several Private Equity backed, rapid growth organizations and focused on leveraging human capital to meet both strategic and operational objectives. His emphasis on talent acquisition, management, and development, allowed these organizations to maximize the return on their investments in people.

McKinney began his career in HR leadership positions with Schlumberger, Ltd and Compaq Computer Corporation. He also served as the VPHR of Landmark Graphics Corp., a software company that assists the E&P industry with finding and developing hydrocarbons, and a wholly owned company of Halliburton.  In addition, McKinney served as the CHRO for Valerus LP, a PE backed energy Services Company, and where he helped to drive 20% YOY annualized growth.

“We are excited to welcome Gary to the Jobplex team to help build out our presence both nationally and in the Carolinas,” said Jobplex President, Justin Hirsch. “I’m confident his talent management experience will help grow our expertise in his practice domain as well as his geographical areas.”

McKinney has also held leadership positions for professional organizations; the Human Capital Planning Society and the Information Services Human Resources Association, as well as serving on the Board of the Baylor Research Initiative and Collaborative.

McKinney received a Bachelor of Science degree from Presbyterian College. Professionally, he earned the Executive HR Certificate from Stanford University and the University of Michigan.

Established in 1996, Jobplex leads the recruiting industry in offering diversified search services for your company’s next generation executive leader. Our customized search offerings and performance-based fee structure provide solutions from a Single Search to Project Recruitment. For more information on Jobplex, visit

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The Pros and Cons of Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’

Is hiring for “cultural fit” sustainable?

Company culture at human resources technology company Bonfyre App emphasizes trust, care and empathy, and the employees who align to these values tend to excel. To determine cultural fit, Rob Seay, the St. Louis-based company’s HR director, said it makes sure to spend time with candidates outside of the office in less rigid environments like coffee shops to get to know prospective hires, learn about their character and how they approach difficult situations.

Seay said employee alignment to company culture influences worker satisfaction, engagement and retention. If an environment focuses on being collaborative and team-oriented, but individuals focus only on individual achievements, “that environment might be really difficult for them to really work to their true potential,” Seay said.

Despite the importance of company culture, few organizations do well at establishing it properly. According to research by professional services firm Deloitte on the topic, only 12 percent of respondents indicated their organization was “excellent at driving the desired culture.”

To identify company culture, business leaders must think about the values that drive their business, said Katie Bouton, CEO of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm focused on mission-driven organizations based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. “That’s absolutely critical to being able to begin to assess for culture fit.”

Bouton sees “cultural fit” as an important tool, especially for younger generations, who she said don’t see a lot of difference between their work and personal lives in terms of how they live out their values. “Since we spend a third of our lifetime at work, I think people are really looking for that kind of alignment,” she said.

Organizations are getting better at defining company culture. Although terminology of “cultural fit” became popular primarily in the past decade, it’s only been recently that organizations became more particular about defining their principles, said Justin Hirsch, president and HR executive search lead for Jobplex Inc., a midlevel executive search firm. Business leaders are doing well at publishing detailed information about their cultures in handbooks, job posts and other places they broadcast their employer brand.

“Employees are more apt to join organizations that they find their values aligned to, and employees are keenly interested in a collaborative, team-oriented organization in which advancement is earned and communication is open,” Hirsch said. He advised continuing to document cultural leadership principles and integrate that language in the employer brand. “It’s something to be proud of,” Hirsch said.

Fraught for Fit

The problem, however, is in assessing cultural fit. It’s very much a feeling at times, Hirsch said, making it hard to quantify and inviting the potential for bias in the hiring process. The innate subjectivity is a challenge in hiring for cultural fit.

Another issue is around diversity in the workplace. People tend to gravitate to those similar to themselves, Hirsch said, which then undermines organizational efforts to diversify the employee population.

To avoid impacting efforts to maintain or gain a diverse workforce, business leaders must first define what they mean by culture fit. “What you really mean is values fit,” Bouton said. Then, they should assign a set of questions for the interview process, as well as train the people doing the interviewing. “That’s a nice check and balance for bias,” Bouton said. Also, look out for blanket statements, such as “they’re just not the right fit,” and be prepared to ask for more specifics about why interviewers felt that way, Bouton said.

Despite the extra time and effort this process takes, Bouton said the rigor is worth it. “Because employees stay longer when their values align, you save so much time down the road that that extra couple of weeks it might take to do a rigorous hiring process is well worth the effort,” she said.

Also, Bouton warned about the differences between assessing for values vs. working norms. Things like staying late and getting drinks after work is dangerous territory to use as an evaluation tool. “What you want to focus on is rather the reason that people get up in the morning and come to work,” she said.

Terminology of “cultural fit” still has negative connotations when it comes to diversity and inclusion, however. As a result, some companies are working to stop using the phrase, Bouton said, adding that she’s heard rumblings of “network fit” and “values fit.”

Another term making the rounds in hiring communities is “culture add,” said Jim Conti, people lead at Chicago-based Dscout Inc., a consumer research software company. Culture add takes the existing idea of a foundational culture and then pushes it to the next level by seeking people who have a variety of experiences and backgrounds who can add to the organizational culture instead of replicating what’s already at the company. “Culture fit doesn’t really push you to challenge yourself,” Conti said.

Bonfyre’s Seay also advised that companies be open to change and even be ready to do away with cultural fit should they experience talent attraction issues. In industries that lack the sufficient supply for the demands placed on the talent pool, business leaders might need to only look for the essentials needed for the role.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that companies’ cultures will not remain stagnant, Seay said. As companies go through reorganizations or mergers and acquisitions, it’s inevitable that their cultures will change. Therefore, business leaders should be open to changing or adding values to their cultures. “Just like everything else, I think it’s going to continue to potentially evolve and change,” Seay said.

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Evans Joins Jobplex as Partner



New York, (October 30, 2017) – Jobplex, Inc. is pleased to announce that Adam Evans has joined the firm as Partner. Evans brings nearly 20 years of experience in executive search partnering with market leading companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors.

Evans has a successful track record of completing assignments from the C-suite to director level in a full array of functional capacities including marketing, operations, human resources, finance, information technology, sales and supply chain.

Prior to joining Jobplex, Evans served as a Senior Associate at DHR International as a member of their Retail and Consumer practices. He also was a key leader in the development of DHR’s new Hospitality and Leisure Practice, a sector in which he will continue his focus.

“I have worked closely with Adam, as he has been a key contributor to the evolution of DHR’s new Hospitality and Leisure practice area,” noted Ken Schwenke, Managing Partner of DHR’s Hospitality & Leisure practice.  “Adam understands clients, pulls candidates into the process through his engaging personality, and delivers results through his drive and persistence.  In his new role, Adam will now get the chance to drive client delivery not only to the benefit of both Jobplex and DHR, but to the benefit of our clients.”

“We are thrilled to tap Adam to lead the Hospitality and Leisure practice area,” says President of Jobplex, Justin Hirsch. “His business acumen, process orientation and eye for great talent will be a huge asset to all of our current and prospective clients.”

Previously, Evans worked with CTPartners as a Director in the Consumer and Retail practice. His executive search career began as a Search Associate with Kirk Palmer and Associates, a boutique firm focused on retail and related wholesale businesses. Throughout his career Evans has developed the insight, tenacity and network necessary to quickly and effectively place best in class talent to drive, change, innovation and profit.

Established in 1996, Jobplex leads the recruiting industry in offering diversified search services for your company’s next generation executive leader. Our customized search offerings and performance-based fee structure provide solutions from a Single Search to Project Recruitment. For more information on Jobplex, visit

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