It’s Time for Maryland to Say No to Salary History

On February 19, NWLC testified in front of the Maryland House of Delegates on HB634, the Wage History and Wage Range Bill, which would stop an important driver of the gender wage gap in Maryland: employers’ reliance on salary history in hiring and setting pay. Under HB634, employers would no longer be able to seek and rely on job applicants’ salary history and would be required to provide job applicants the wage range for a position upon request.
These changes are urgently needed. In Maryland, women are typically paid only 86 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, and women of color experience even larger wage gaps. Black women in Maryland are typically paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men, and Latinas are paid just 46 cents on the dollar – the 4th largest wage gap for Latinas in the country.  By allowing employers to rely on salary history when hiring and setting pay for employees, Maryland is ensuring that these wage gaps will follow women throughout their careers and be perpetuated throughout the Maryland economy.
Reliance on salary history shortchanges women throughout their careers
At the hearing, a representative from a Maryland teacher’s union provided a poignant and all too common example of how employers’ reliance on salary history shortchanges women. The representative shared the story of a woman working for the school district who had more years of experience and a higher degree than her male colleague doing the same work but was paid thousands of dollars less than him because she had taken a lower paying secretarial job with the school district to get her foot in the door and the school district relied on applicants’ prior salary to set pay.
As this example demonstrates and as NWLC Workplace Justice Legal Fellow Sarah David Heydemann pointed out in her testimony, “salary history is not an accurate, objective, or neutral indicator of an applicant’s qualifications, suitability, interest in a position, or the market value of a candidate or a position. It is a measure that reflects gender wage inequities, past employers’ and the market’s discriminatory biases, what someone else was able to pay, what someone was willing to accept, and other irrelevant factors that have nothing to do with an applicant’s skill, knowledge, experience, negotiation abilities, or fit for the job.”
For those just starting their careers, the prospect of entering a workforce where employer’s reliance on salary history can condemn you to lower wages throughout your career is daunting and disheartening. As Oluwakanyinsola Shonibare, a 17-year old college freshman in Maryland said in her powerful testimony, “it frightens me that even after all the sacrifices I have made for a bright future, the current Maryland salary system may keep me from starting at the same level as my male counterparts.”
Businesses increasingly agree it’s unnecessary
Not only do Marylanders recognize relying on salary history as a deeply unfair practice, they also increasingly see it as an unnecessary business practice.  A nearly 20-year senior vice president of human resources spoke at the hearing in favor of stopping reliance on salary history and several other Maryland business and employer voices submitted short statements speaking against relying on salary history. Meg McNeill of McNeill Independent Spirit Creators, LLC, a small Maryland business, wrote, “I’m a small business owner who also worked for five years in human capital consulting, and I don’t use salary history in hiring because I know it can inadvertently perpetuate discrimination and it isn’t the most effective way for us to bring the best people onto our team.”
Indeed, major companies across the country, including Amazon, American Express, and Bank of America, are no longer asking job applicants to provide their salary history in job applications, recognizing that it perpetuates gender wage gaps.
If passed, HB634 would ensure that all job applicants are judged and paid based on the qualifications and skills they can bring to the job, not by what their past employer chose to pay them.
Seven states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, and California, have passed this important legislation, all with bipartisan support.
 It is time that Maryland do the same.