California bans salary history requirements
October 19, 2017 3:27 PM   Subscribe

The new law, banning employers from asking about salary history, goes into effect Jan 1, 2018. AB 168 also requires employers to provide the pay scale on request - no more, "tell us what you made before, and we'll tell you if you might be a candidate for the position."

This has the potential to reshape the contractor-based industries. The new law says, "An employer, upon reasonable request, shall provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant applying for employment." It doesn't say, "shall provide pay scale for those applicants who are being seriously considered for the job." It means info about job rates will be public, and job-seekers can compare rates across companies.

The law was enacted to prevent discrimination against women based on past discrimination; it looks like a tremendous boon to anyone who's looking to switch industries, or who's been stuck in a low-wage job while they learned more skills and had more responsibilities heaped on them.

It also means hiring managers will be scrambling to figure out how to rate applicants if they can't use past salary as their quick y/n for "is this person maybe a fit for this position?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom (108 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
 
Awesome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:28 PM on October 19 [16 favorites]


New thought that just now occured to me - if interns are employees, it means a potential employer can't ask if an internship was paid or not. And if the internship didn't have the word "intern" in the job title, a new employer has no way of knowing that was an unpaid position. Wow.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:32 PM on October 19 [24 favorites]


What?! I hadn't even heard of this. Thanks so much for this post!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 3:36 PM on October 19


It seems like a start.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Aw man, but only in California?
posted by Grandysaur at 3:43 PM on October 19 [7 favorites]


This is amazing news. Being stuck in the low pay cycle forever extremely sucks, as does trying to negotiate when they can see your hand (what your last employer thought you were worth) but you can't see theirs (what is their actual budget for this job). Now that shoe is on the other foot. I wonder if any of the people working at the companies who opposed it thought about how they were advocating against a policy that was only going to help them as individuals on their next job hunt.
posted by bleep at 3:44 PM on October 19 [17 favorites]


So I'm sure this will be hashed out by the courts, but there is a plausible reading of this which would apply to out of state employers who are recruiting employees in California (or perhaps even using methods which could foreseeably lead to recruiting Californians). If that interpretation stands, this could quickly become a de facto standard for most jobs nationwide.

I had not previously heard about the requirement that employers furnish a job salary range upon request, and this part of the law has me worried about legal challengers. I don't think it's going to take too long for some company to claim that its pay range is a trade-secret, and that forcing them to publicize that information is a regulatory taking. That makes it a federal issue, and who knows how it works there.
posted by skewed at 3:47 PM on October 19 [9 favorites]


I think this is a huge step forward and support it, but I do wonder about unintended consequences, where the publication of the salary ranges for jobs become overly broad ($35,000 to $160,000 per year) in order to comply with the range rule, and whether employers will very very quietly toss people out of the running who don't voluntarily and without prompting reveal their salary.
posted by tclark at 3:48 PM on October 19 [21 favorites]


Hallelujah.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:48 PM on October 19


The contracting firm I'm working for is ahead on this. We have internal pay transparency and we've started giving an anonymized salary list with Level and Pay to folks along with their job offers.
posted by macrael at 3:58 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


Now if there's additionally some way to get rid of the salary requirements that a lot of potential employers ask for, then we'll really be headed in the right direction.
posted by strelitzia at 3:59 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I think this is a huge step forward and support it, but I do wonder about unintended consequences, where the publication of the salary ranges for jobs become overly broad ($35,000 to $160,000 per year) in order to comply with the range rule,

A company could do that but I imagine it'll hurt them. Strong candidates will be turned off by the transparent ruse and apply to more straightforward places. Weaker, more desperate candidates may still apply, but they will have a leg up because they can see what similar titles go for on the market = better bargaining point. In any event no one will be roped into three interviews before finding out a company wants to play games.

and whether employers will very very quietly toss people out of the running who don't voluntarily and without prompting reveal their salary.

This will probably happen but it's better than the status quo in which employers can put it on employment forms and use that info with zero consequences. I see it as a similar issue to racial discrimination in hiring and anti-discrimination laws.

Surely there will be some unexpected consequences. I do anticipate a positive consequence being a reduction in the pay gap, which is encouraged by practices of basing salaries off one's salary history.
posted by Emily's Fist at 4:05 PM on October 19 [22 favorites]


Aw man, but only in California?

Several other states have similar laws active or in the works. Also, a quick look around says CA has over 10% of the jobs in the country - a change this major in CA law is going to affect much of the rest of the country, because the expectations will change.

publication of the salary ranges for jobs become overly broad ($35,000 to $160,000 per year) in order to comply with the range rule

I think even a half-assed court would find a problem with that. They'd be able to say, produce some records that show you hire people at $35k and $160k for the same position that Chris Doe here has applied for. Also, most companies have nice solid internal pay ranges for those jobs - they just don't like to publicize them. Lying might be considered better policy, but it's more work, and therefore less likley to be implemented.

whether employers will very very quietly toss people out of the running who don't voluntarily and without prompting reveal their salary

They could, just like they could regularly offer women the low end of the range and men the high end of the range - but that'd be a violation of the law. Also, trying to stealthily get good candidates to reveal their salaries when the law very clearly says they don't have to, is going to be difficult. I mean, there's the possibility of the recruiter saying, "so... is there anything else you want to tell me about your past employment? Anything at all?" but it's not likely to be very effective.

I know employees are going to latch onto this law with a vengeance; recruiters looking to nudge people into revealing their salaries are going to be excluding a whole lot of qualified applicants while they're courting a lawsuit.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:07 PM on October 19 [10 favorites]


It'd be simpler and easier if we made it so there is no recourse for lying about your previous salary. That question doesn't really deserve an honest answer in most contexts.
posted by skewed at 4:11 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


As someone who has had to apply for jobs, I would really welcome this kind of added transparency. It should make the playing field more level and fair.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:20 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


It also means hiring managers will be scrambling to figure out how to rate applicants if they can't use past salary as their quick y/n for "is this person maybe a fit for this position?"

I think a lot of people, especially lower-income people, assume the past salary question will be an excuse to give you a lowball offer. But it isn't. It's a class marker. It's the thing that says, okay, maybe you were titled as a staff accountant in your last job, but you were paid as a bookkeeper, so we can't possibly consider you for a senior role even though you have the listed years of experience. Or okay, you were titled as a developer, but clearly they didn't think much of you if they only paid you $30k a year--even though at the time, you thought that looked great because your past job had you on food stamps. I'm not sure how much credit I give to the assumption that your past employer was paying you fairly based on your value, that anybody should be making it in the first place. If your last employer was paying you what you were worth, why would you ever want a different job?
posted by Sequence at 4:27 PM on October 19 [29 favorites]


macrael, does the company reveal their billing rate? Forcing companies to do that would really reshape the contracting landscape. My first contracting job paid me less than half the bill rate. I found out from a prior manager who used the same contracting company I now worked for. It let me negotiate a serious increase in my pay.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:33 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


If your last employer was paying you what you were worth, why would you ever want a different job?

Better benefits. Moving to a different location. Past job was dead-end; it pays okay, but there's no "up." Past job laid you off and you want to switch to a more stable industry. Work from home option. You love the new company and want to work in it. New company is a startup; you want in on the ground floor. You have friends at the new company and want to work with them. Travel options. Old job was near a train station; new job is in a quiet business park. Different office OS. Ergonomic desks. Better lighting conditions.

There are plenty of reasons for wanting a new job that aren't based on being underpaid.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:38 PM on October 19 [31 favorites]


I find myself wishing I was in California. As a manager, I've always tried to be as transparent as possible about salary ranges for my employees. I was told many years ago that employees will figure it out eventually. It would be nice to work in place where this is just the norm for everyone though.
posted by HiddenInput at 4:52 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately a lot of the anti-discrimination laws for non-union employees are ignored anyway, so the cynic in me does not anticipate this making a huge effect.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:56 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


This seems like a really well-intentioned but terrible idea. There are plenty of legit reasons to want to be able to know this about an applicant. I'm really glad I'm not a hiring manager in California.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:57 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


I'm sure this will work as well as ban the box.
posted by jpe at 4:57 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


Better benefits.

Then you'd at least be able to say that your compensation package was worth $X, and this new package is worth $Y. A lot of those soft things might be hard to value, but it's not that there's always a dollar value--it's just that the standard thing is that the new thing is better aligned with what you perceive as your value. It's just not reasonable to ask people their prior compensation and assume it must have been reasonable compared to their value at the time they're applying for the new job, because the new job has to have SOMETHING better going for it. Sometimes that thing won't have a dollar value, but it's not weird for a jump between jobs to come with a noticeable pay increase.

I'm sure there's occasionally cases where you can just quickly be like, "Oh, I know your old title was also 'developer' but you're clearly already making way more than what we pay," but those times, disclosing the pay range works just as well as asking for salary history. And if someone's clearly not qualified for the position, that should be something you can figure out well enough from interview and resume.
posted by Sequence at 4:57 PM on October 19


the cynic in me does not anticipate this making a huge effect.

It'll remove the "prior salary" section from forms, and it'll require employees to give the salary range of the job they're hiring for. Whether it prevents them from nudging applicants into declaring their salaries is a lot blurrier.

There are plenty of legit reasons to want to be able to know this about an applicant.

Like what? Honest question; I've been trying to think of a legitimate reason to want to know someone's salary instead of their education history, job experience, and specific skills. I get that salary is often presumed to be a shorthand for a combination of those, but - and this is why the law was enacted - many women and people of color were routinely given lower salaries regardless of qualifications.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:02 PM on October 19 [42 favorites]


I'm sure this will work as well as ban the box.

Ban the box has also gone statewide.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:04 PM on October 19


Not being upfront about what you are willing to pay for an employee is so transparently shitty and slimy I'm surprised it hasn't been enshrined in law. What a person was paid before is of zero relevance.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:05 PM on October 19 [18 favorites]


I think employers being required to provide the pay scale should not cause unfairness, well unless employers push more pay into strangely allocated bonuses.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:06 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of legit reasons to want to be able to know this about an applicant.

Hey you must have had a copy and paste issue or something because you left out the part where you gave any.
posted by PMdixon at 5:09 PM on October 19 [60 favorites]


doesn't everyone just pad the numbers by 10% and then ask for 15% above that?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:09 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there's occasionally cases where you can just quickly be like, "Oh, I know your old title was also 'developer' but you're clearly already making way more than what we pay,"

This has been the primary case for me in the past when I've disclosed, helps weed out companies that I would never consider. But as you say, if they gave me some info instead that would also work (prior to this, getting a company to give out salary data basically never happened, so I'd volunteer when I had a strong suspicion they were not going to be able to even match my current pay -- and would have been happy if they decided they wanted me enough to match it anyways).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:10 PM on October 19


There are plenty of legit reasons to want to be able to know this about an applicant.

Could you elaborate on this? I used to have hiring capabilities and I seriously can't think of a single valid reason I needed to know past salary history. It usually led to "underqualified"/"overqualified" assumptions that had no bearing on the applicant's actual qualifications.
posted by queensissy at 5:13 PM on October 19 [13 favorites]


While discrimination will continue to occur under the new rules, same as it has under the existing ones, most employers tend to adhere to hiring law because adhering to the law is beneficial to them for a variety of reasons.

Not one employer I've ever interviewed with was willing to give me a solid answer on the pay range for the position I'm applying for and where in that range they consider me to fall. I still don't have that information today at my current employer. Maybe I'll ask them for it on January 2nd.
posted by crysflame at 5:16 PM on October 19 [10 favorites]


Also, wow, the "ban the box" law. I completely missed that. Brilliantly done, California.
posted by crysflame at 5:19 PM on October 19


where the publication of the salary ranges for jobs become overly broad ($35,000 to $160,000 per year) in order to comply with the range rule

Those companies will immediately be apparent as having ridiculously badly defined job titles, so much so that it's not even worth applying because who wants to roll a $35k-to-$160k die in the first place. Good applicants will treat it like the toxic waste fire it is and run away at speed.

And that's assuming it's not truly a valid range for the job specified, with a woman being paid $35k and a man being paid $160k. If that turned out to be the case, the company would be burned alive in the press, humiliated until they correct the pay error, and likely sued for blatant pay discrimination at that stage.
posted by crysflame at 5:23 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


This was already law in San Francisco (though outside of the city in other parts of Silicon Valley it was not) so the tech industry has had a year to start getting used to this. (A friend recently interviewed with a tech giant located outside the city, and when they asked for her previous salary, she got away with saying "the law in SF is that I don't have to answer that question, so on principle I would prefer not to answer it. Here is the range I'm looking for.") I've recently left SF and rejoined the Boston tech industry, and my new startup - run by unusually reasonable and grown-up people - embraced the intent of the SF law and we have a transparent, non-negotiable pay scale that is communicated to every employee, and it's entirely independent of past salary. (The only time it comes up in discussion is "I see you were just at Amazon. I imagine they paid you quite a lot. Here's what we can pay. Are you interested in continuing with the interview process?")

I think it's awesome, but I admit it feels weird to know how much my CEO makes - I've never known that before in my working life. It was also weird to not negotiate my salary - even though they were totally transparent about what everyone was making and I thought my offer was entirely reasonable, I felt like I was still somehow losing out by not even trying to argue it up. But I'm getting over it, and it sure makes the hiring song-and-dance a lot easier on both sides.
posted by olinerd at 5:28 PM on October 19 [16 favorites]


It still boggles my mind that employers don't provide a precise salary for a given position. That it's even legal for employers to negotiate salaries individually, rather than equal pay for equal work is a large part of what enables the kind of discrimination this hopes to combat. Pay what the job is worth, and state it up front, then hire someone who's good enough to do the work.
posted by Dysk at 5:32 PM on October 19 [33 favorites]


I wish this were nationwide. I had the worst interview yesterday. My butt barely hit the seat and the guy said I wasn't a good fit because I had made $15/hr working full time and he was paying under $12/hr for part time, and he didn't want someone who would jump ship if offered more money. Then he mentally checked out from the rest of the interview.

I mean... Gee, if you want someone to stay, then pay a living wage first off. And secondly, I have three really bad habits that are expensive - living indoors, eating three meals a day, and wearing clothes, so like having a job is preferable to no job.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:33 PM on October 19 [55 favorites]


This is awesome.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:33 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


The past salary thing really sucks when you're trying to change industries. What's a standard scale in one industry may not match up at all with the one you want to change to, but hiring managers usually don't know that. I used to be a research assistant at an R1 where the pay was somewhere between $0 and LOL because you're supposed to do it for the ~ love of knowledge. I had that job for 10 years and finally the grant gravy train dried up and suddenly I was a 40 year old woman with a Masters, getting paid $15/hour and trying to go from academia to industry with that as my salary history got me nowhere fast. Well, it did get me calls from recruiters offering me contract gigs at (wait for it) $15/hour (with none of the sweet bennies that had kept me more or less content in academia).

As it turned out, I stayed in academia, where they usually publish the hiring range right in the job posting, and you don't negotiate (I'm talking staff here, not faculty or administration, they play by different rules). I pretty much know how much everyone makes. It's great.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:33 PM on October 19 [18 favorites]


For legit salary considerations, where a company wants to hire the best people it can afford, this will streamline the hiring process. For companies that were trying to stretch their budgets by hiring marginalized people who've been underpaid in the past, or new graduates who don't yet know the industry standards, it's going to cause problems.

That it's even legal for employers to negotiate salaries individually, rather than equal pay for equal work is a large part of what enables the kind of discrimination this hopes to combat.

The theory is that even for a job with very specific requirements, some people who have all of the necessary skills will be better at it than others, and therefore deserve the higher pay. But yeah, that excuse gets used an awful lot to give white dudes higher salaries than everyone else.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:39 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I'm having an unexpected warm fuzzy free-market daydream in which people are paid for how good they are at their jobs, widely defined, and it's so sensible that we decide to pay companies for how good they are at *their* jobs (Equifax, adieu) and it frees up enough resources that there's a lot less shovelware powerpoint in the world and we fix some important infrastructure instead. With a pony.
posted by clew at 6:00 PM on October 19 [7 favorites]


The theory is that even for a job with very specific requirements, some people who have all of the necessary skills will be better at it than others, and therefore deserve the higher pay.

Equal work, equal pay. Either them being better at it effectively doesn't matter (if both Bob and Alice get the job done to the required standard, what is the meaningful impact of Bob being 'better'?) or there's someone underqualified for their job who ought to be fired, or someone who's potential is wasted so ought to be promoted or find a different job (unless they just want to be working at less than 100% capacity, which is anathema to a certain type of business school logic, but perfectly valid). Or they're actually doing the same job at all.
posted by Dysk at 6:03 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Not actually doing the same job! Missed the edit window!
posted by Dysk at 6:10 PM on October 19


My first contracting job paid me less than half the bill rate.

I've known quite a few people getting perhaps a quarter of their (very high) bill rate. And they weren't receiving extensive back office or equipment support.
posted by Candleman at 6:18 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


I think it's awesome, but I admit it feels weird to know how much my CEO makes - I've never known that before in my working life. It was also weird to not negotiate my salary - even though they were totally transparent about what everyone was making and I thought my offer was entirely reasonable, I felt like I was still somehow losing out by not even trying to argue it up. But I'm getting over it, and it sure makes the hiring song-and-dance a lot easier on both sides.
posted by olinerd


If you have the right to collectively bargain, you are a defacto union shop - which, I'll be honest - is my goal for white collar work.

But, union work has issues. If everyone thinks 'collective good' its pretty fantastic. But, soon someone will skill up in something faster than another, and the responsibilities that fall on someone else will be less/more and the justifications will start - or - the contempt will. This is a great way to get all around excellent talent - but a hard way to maintain top talent. It is a salary utopia that slowly bleeds resentment, or stagnation of behavior once someone finds out that they can never be a special snowflake.

That is to say - I honestly love it, but it is so far out of the DNA of tech companies and the american labor force, that it is the 5 and 10 year mark from now that I have my fingers crossed for you.

I would also note, that similar legislation is set to go active in MA in 2018 or 2019 - making it necessary for all of the other employers in the state to be more transparent with the job payscale.

I can tell you, right now, I've got a host of candidates I'm interviewing in the next few weeks. They've presented their skills differently on their resumes, I'll have an initial conversation with folks and get their baseline, figure out who knows their shit, who made mistakes (mistakes I view as a good thing btw, because the post mortem on projects is how you make a loss a win), who I would put to the front of the show, folks that are savvy enough to control a room and prevent analyses and models from being ripped to shreds by nitpickers that don't understand how to actually use a model... I figure out who I would want to build the models - who pokes at things, tries a few different ways to both validate their results and or stretch for an improvement... And lastly, I look at who understands that foundational bit of - if we're going after this kind of work, we need to get these different components arranged in this style of data structure. The best candidates have all 3 skillsets and walk on water. But in reality, you likely get someone with different levels of proficiency within those three domains. The goal becomes to make sure this person strong enough in one or two of these areas and do they have the skills to be turned into a rockstar with all 3.

Last week I also got to have the worst conversation of my career, the one where someone knows I have jobs available that is eminently about to be laid off. And their skillset is lacking... not in one or two domains, but in every foundational piece. Someone that, deserves to have a job doing something, but that ran out of time to skill up. And they asked me point blank what they needed to do to qualify for one of my positions.

And how do you tell someone that I'd need likely 4 years of their life to skill them up to my minimum levels? That, their lack of curiosity in learning beyond certain skills, that no knowledge of modeling, that all of these things means, that fundamentally they haven't reinvested in learning until it is too late... that, that lack of foresight means that I can't help them, because even if they started today, they'd spend 4 years chasing that ball and then be surprised again that the goalpost had moved.

It sucked. I didn't even know the guy - I mean - by the end of our conversation, I knew the guy very well. I could see where corporate philosophy changed, I could see job stagnation, I could see complacency... And I don't know... When a company pivots in an obvious manner...

I mean... I could bring him on as a junior, pay him way below what he was making - because his skillset would effectively entry level for me - and maybe - maybe he could pick up 2 or 3 foundational skills (not those categorical skills) to a level of proficiency over a couple of years... and the whole time, they'd resent the pay cut, they'd resent a perceived demotion, and resist learning because that's what their career up til this point indicated... I haven't slept well over this.

So yeah... this whole concept of not asking people what they make? sure... but - show me your skills, and I'll tell you what you make. I know my industry well enough, what it pays, and the salary deflation it has experienced due to so many more people running about with data science and analytics degrees ... and we've burned through the word 'analyst' so that folks who were analysts in excel don't understand that their cursory knowledge of stats and/or sql does not make them able to do what I need them to do.

Anyways... yeah... yay California... please use this for good.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:20 PM on October 19 [10 favorites]


Kirth We're small, so all the companies financials are an open book right now.
posted by macrael at 6:28 PM on October 19


My butt barely hit the seat and the guy said I wasn't a good fit because I had made $15/hr working full time and he was paying under $12/hr for part time, and he didn't want someone who would jump ship if offered more money.

I...what?

Why does this asshole think people have jobs? For the fuzzy feeling it gives them?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:30 PM on October 19 [11 favorites]


The goal of this and similar regulations (and other strategies such as unions) is to equalize the balance of power of employers and employees (otherwise known as capitalists and laborers, which makes me sound like a communist or socialist; I'm neither.). To be against this idea is to condone the dominance of one set of human beings over another set of human beings. It amazes me that the majority of people in America still believe this to be an honorable and righteous way of life.
posted by Michael Tellurian at 6:35 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I'm a resident of NYC, which recently also banned asking for previous salaries. What are people supposed to do with those job applications that require your previous salary before you can upload your resume? (And by "upload" i mean upload a document and then retype each entry by hand.)

If they won't change it, do you report them to whatever entity is supposed to prosecute this sort of thing? How many resources will the state will allocate to punishing companies who ask illegal questions before allowing people to apply?
posted by Lycaste at 6:54 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


God, this is great. Not just for the usual reasons but for the fact that hell if I remember what I made in the past at this point.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:17 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


I wrote my state representative last year asking for this, but didn't hear back and haven't had a chance to ask in person. I'll be trying again before the next legislative session, since I don't see much likelihood of getting paid appropriately for my work, experience, and skills without this policy. Past underemployment is hard to overcome.
posted by asperity at 7:42 PM on October 19


Why does this asshole think people have jobs? For the fuzzy feeling it gives them?

It builds character.

It’s actually pretty revealing of the guy’s thought processes that he assumes a person who’d never made more than $12/hr wouldn’t jump ship if offered more. Like, they’d take their cloth cap in hand and say oh no, Mr. Fotheringworthy, twelve an hour’s enough for the likes of me. If I need more, I’ll just shine shoes in my off hours, as is my lot.
posted by No-sword at 7:43 PM on October 19 [35 favorites]


(Pronounced “Fanwa”.)
posted by No-sword at 7:46 PM on October 19 [9 favorites]


"I'm sure this will work as well as ban the box."

Hey, you know what the answer to that is? ENFORCE THE FREAKING LAWS AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION. Not "Let employers go back to discriminating against felons jailed for non-violent pot possession so they can discriminate against the RIGHT black people." An employer who can no longer discriminate against rehabilitated felons who have already served their debt to society and do not deserve to keep being punished who chooses instead to discriminate against all black people on the theory that that's where all the felons are hiding? That's an employer who needs a good solid smackdown from the state Attorney General.

-Signed, someone whose state has banned the box for two years AND THE SKY DID NOT FALL
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:47 PM on October 19 [30 favorites]


"If they won't change it, do you report them to whatever entity is supposed to prosecute this sort of thing? How many resources will the state will allocate to punishing companies who ask illegal questions before allowing people to apply?"

Report it to the state attorney general, and in many states, yes, the AG will absolutely go after that kind of slam-dunk, pro-citizen, pro-voter case. (Your state Attorney General is just DYING for you to send them reports of scammy telemarketers, they LOVE that shit, they get cash settlements from scammy companies with one nastygram, and often you get $50 of that settlement for reporting it!) If you have a shitty AG, you may be out of luck. But most AG offices have some staff specifically dedicated to this kind of citizen/consumer complaint of companies clearly violating simple laws at a low level. They're easy violations to document and take to court, and easy wins that are easy to campaign on next election cycle. They also make people LOVE THEIR STATE AG because they complained about the sort of minor legal violation that no private attorney would take but that affect citizens a lot, and the AG went and fixed it, so AGs love to do them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 PM on October 19 [11 favorites]


California banned the box for state and local government jobs several years ago — this year’s bill extends it to private employers. I was fortunate enough to work with Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, the author of AB 168, on a completely different bill this year, and she’s the kind of legislator who is a dream to work with. She’s a social worker, solidifying my theory that social workers make good legislators. See also: Barbara Lee.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:08 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Equal work, equal pay. Either them being better at it effectively doesn't matter (if both Bob and Alice get the job done to the required standard, what is the meaningful impact of Bob being 'better'?) or there's someone underqualified for their job who ought to be fired, or someone who's potential is wasted so ought to be promoted or find a different job (unless they just want to be working at less than 100% capacity, which is anathema to a certain type of business school logic, but perfectly valid). Or they're actually [not] doing the same job at all.

This seems like an exceedingly artificial and unrealistic construct. If Bob does the job better, he produces better/more of whatever product/service he's being paid to do, and is a more valuable employee. Sure, there may be jobs where being better doesn't really matter, but it's not at all difficult to think of jobs where marginal increases in ability lead to marginally more valuable goods/service, without any upper limit on potential ability or value (e.g., doctors, teachers, carpenters, just off the top of my head). I think it's actually harder to think of jobs where two people working the same position are necessarily performing the same work; some people are going to be better at it than others.
posted by skewed at 8:30 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


This seems like an exceedingly artificial and unrealistic construct. If Bob does the job better, he produces better/more of whatever product/service he's being paid to do, and is a more valuable employee. Sure, there may be jobs where being better doesn't really matter, but it's not at all difficult to think of jobs where marginal increases in ability lead to marginally more valuable goods/service, without any upper limit on potential ability or value (e.g., doctors, teachers, carpenters, just off the top of my head). I think it's actually harder to think of jobs where two people working the same position are necessarily performing the same work; some people are going to be better at it than others.

I would say that the construct whereby an individual's work output is perfectly knowable, quantifiable, comparable to others', consistent from day to day, unchanging over time, and a worthwhile summation of someone's value at a workplace is perhaps even more artificial and unrealistic. Virtually everyone I know is doing complicated things in a constantly changing work environment with a high degree of variability from task to task. Beyond that, most workplaces are highly interdependent and breaking down an individual's contributions completely misses countless small ways in which an individual's output is affected by, for example, not working in a pigsty filled with quiet rage, or being able to take a break for 5 minutes, etc. No one I know is making widgets by themselves with uniform inputs and outputs or in some other environment where it might be possible and make sense to value their relative skill as workers in some objective way.

Honestly, though, the thing that sort of bothers me about this conversation is how many people, consciously or unconsciously, approach this from the perspective of the boss and not the worker. I work for an enormous and highly profitable corporate entity that is not going to rise or fall based solely on my, or anyone's, contributions. Sure, this law means that they might have to pay slightly more than they absolutely need to if they want to secure the kinds of employees they want, but why should I care if they're getting the best possible deal for their labor? I'd much rather see its profits dwindle slightly if it meant that everyone I work with was paid and treated fairly. The idea that I must spend 8 hours a day doing nothing but striving to deliver maximum value to my employer and should be assessed as a person based on my relative success at that has not, to my mind, led to great results for our society.
posted by Copronymus at 9:09 PM on October 19 [31 favorites]


the construct whereby an individual's work output is perfectly knowable, quantifiable, comparable to others', consistent from day to day, unchanging over time, and a worthwhile summation of someone's value at a workplace is perhaps even more artificial and unrealistic... The idea that I must spend 8 hours a day doing nothing but striving to deliver maximum value to my employer and should be assessed as a person based on my relative success at that has not, to my mind, led to great results for our society.


I don't know if you're arguing for the "equal work, equal pay" argument Dysk was making above or what, but you don't need to assume perfect knowledge to recognize that there are differences in quality/quantity of output between workers. And that proposition sure as heck doesn't imply that you have to work yourself to death to prove your worth to your employer and to society.
posted by skewed at 9:43 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Honestly, though, the thing that sort of bothers me about this conversation is how many people, consciously or unconsciously, approach this from the perspective of the boss and not the worker.

My own perspectives are all over the map. But one aspect of this: workers in my experience have a very strong opinions on who among their fellow works is good and who is bad. Often much more passionate than bosses. Quickest way for a manager to be perceived as incompetent is not to mess up "strategy" or ask people to work all weekend but to reward the wrong people.
posted by mark k at 10:12 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


does this make life a tiny bit more difficult on employers by getting rid of a shortcut? maybe. but that same shortcut was also used to very bad effect in discriminatory ways, so it wasn't worth keeping.

and to the extent there are those who worry about all those incompetent workers who might benefit, remember california is still an at-will employment state. you can be fired for any old damn reason, or none at all, if you don't have a contract, which almost nobody does.

and when it comes to what effect this will have on wages, well, i'll just leave this here: https://slate.com/business/2017/10/no-chipotle-isnt-paying-workers-too-little.html
posted by wibari at 10:47 PM on October 19


"I'm sure this will work as well as ban the box."

One of the bigger questions with ban-the-box is whether initial studies finding a harm against minority hiring will prevail in the long term.

Because right now, the chain seems to go that without a marker that disproportionately affects a minority group to discriminate against, the trait will be generalized to the whole group, and the whole group discriminated against.

But you would expect that as the immediacy of the trait decreases — as more and more hiring managers fail to ask a question that will disproportionately associate a trait with a minority — it would seem reasonable to assume that its salience will decrease as well, i.e. that the trait will be less associated with that minority, and that minority will therefore be less likely to be discriminated against by the generalization of that trait.

One of the reasons that I'm skeptical is because new labor regulations often have similar rebound effects. For instance, increasing the minimum wage tends to hurt employment in the short term while increasing wages in the long term with a rebound of the employment levels. Conservatives often cite the former effect while ignoring the latter; it would seem rhetorically congruent to find that ban-the-box legislation didn't achieve its intended ends immediately, therefore further labor reform is doomed.

Which seems to be the argument that you're making.

It's possible that I'm wrong, and ban-the-box laws only have negative longterm effect on balance despite their good intentions. But the studies cited in that article look like they're academic hot takes — if you know of better literature on the issue, it could improve the conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


you don't need to assume perfect knowledge to recognize that there are differences in quality/quantity of output between workers. And that proposition sure as heck doesn't imply that you have to work yourself to death to prove your worth to your employer and to society.

The problem is that you kind of do need perfect knowledge if the point of assessing these differences is to give different salaries to different workers. Otherwise you're toying with people's lives based on a hunch or at the very least creating a heavily distorted set of incentives. I feel like this is one of the ways that toxic workplaces get started, because it's easy to value stuff like closing sales and harder to value stuff like not making life a living hell for anyone within 10 feet of you.

And, sorry, I got a little caught up there at the end. I didn't intend to make that out to be your viewpoint, although I do think it's an unfortunately pervasive one in society at large.
posted by Copronymus at 11:17 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


"The problem is that you kind of do need perfect knowledge if the point of assessing these differences is to give different salaries to different workers. "

No, not really. You just need incentives tied to outcomes, mutually aligned. In theory, this is how commission jobs work — when I was at a commission position, you could definitely tell who the better workers were, and they definitely made more money. There's noise in the system, and commission systems have their own drawbacks, but perfect knowledge wasn't required at all to assess the difference in pay between different workers.
posted by klangklangston at 11:25 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


A commission based system is equal work for equal pay. Differing salaries because the one doctor is unquantifiably 'better' than another is not. (And how exactly is that 'better' doctor bringing in more money for the company? Both her and the other doctor see a patient for a ten minute consultation and net the practice the same consultation fee. Unless the worse doctor is so bad she's unfit for the job, they literally are doing the same work, producing the same economic value, and thus should be paid the same).

Starting from a perspective of being willing to fire people for incompetence or poor job performance helps. Resentment doesn't happen when one person is a rock star and everyone else is good enough (the rock star usually ends up getting promoted eventually anyway), resentment happens when one of more people aren't doing their fucking jobs at all, and everyone else or one of two people are having to take up all their slack. The solution isn't to pay the shitty employees less, or the people doing extra work more - the solution is to fire the employees who are not up to scratch, replace them, and not allow a situation to develop where some staff members are effectively getting asked to take on more responsibilities or be responsible for their coworkers on the same pay grade.

(Part of this solution is having a decent social welfare system, so that you can just fire people because their lives don't hinge entirely on employment)
posted by Dysk at 2:16 AM on October 20 [5 favorites]


I cannot tell you how many times I've been in shitty minimum wage jobs where I ended up being expected to do twice as much as the useless colleagues in my department or shift (and l/or being held responsible for their work getting done). The solution would not have been to pay me twice as much. It would be to regularise my workload and expectations by having other employees who were capable and willing to perform at the required level (which was not superhuman, at least until you were trying to do it for five other people, too) by firing the employees who weren't, and replacing them.
posted by Dysk at 2:20 AM on October 20


I'm used to an industry and a country where salaries are normally specified up front and negotiation is minimal. Also, I've never been asked about my previous salary (although I guess they could look it up if they cared, as salaries in my industry are more or less public). But I just applied for a job overseas where they play by different rules, and geez that bit was hard to game out! The online application form had a box for current salary and a box for desired salary, and you could not submit the form unless these were filled in, and they had to be filled in with actual numbers (I tried writing 'negotiable'). The job ad said offered salary was "market rates".

I happen to know that I'm paid far more in my current job than is usual in the other country, even for jobs more senior than mine in my industry. What I could find online suggested the industry salary there tops out at a level that is only 2/3 of what I currently make. (But the cost of living is a lot lower too). So I worried that by putting my current salary, they'd think I was unrealistic, or that they couldn't afford me. On the other hand, I wasn't about to suggest to them what I thought my pay cut should be - I want them to name that number first! After all, the 'market rates' combined with them doing an international search for candidates suggests that they know they might have to go above the usual pay scales. And ultimately, it's a sliding scale: the less salary they offer me, the harder they would have to work to convince me to take it. Sliding in the other direction, the higher the salary, the harder I'll try to convince them to hire me!

In the end, I put my current salary in both boxes, and I have an interview, so it can't have been entirely the wrong thing to do, but man it would be a lot easier if I hadn't been required to name those numbers.
posted by lollusc at 2:38 AM on October 20 [6 favorites]


And that proposition sure as heck doesn't imply that you have to work yourself to death to prove your worth to your employer and to society.

I'm sorry, have you seen the US lately?
posted by PMdixon at 5:24 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Lycaste, yes, unlawful* discrimination against [FILL IN THE 'PROTECTED CLASS'] is difficult to prove. In such civil suit, the burden of proof falls to the plaintiff. At minimum, plaintiff must produce documentary evidence describing the [INJURY] attributed alone to plaintiff's 'class' AND documentary evidence of preferential treatment offered by defendant to 'similarly situated' persons in different classes.

IF California statute prohibiting mandatory disclosure of salary history does not create conditions for effective discovery of the facts, it is unenforceable, especially in the case of job applicants who will have little or no means to test preferential treatment, i.e. quantitative results of solicitation I/O in a specified period, regardless of employer's superficial compliance with the law, i.e. discarding salary queries in form devices. Enforcement of the law relies wholly on voluntary compliance and ahem certification by the employer.

(*) Discrimination of persons by private-sector corporations/companies/associations/organizations/clubs/individuals is lawful under certain conditions. Discrimination of persons by public-sector organizations et al is unlawful and illegal. Religious organizations are exempt from all tests. See "freedom of association" case law, EEOC construction, and First Amendment decisions.
posted by marycatherine at 6:16 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Hear, ye: Summary of Federal Labor Laws

In general, Non-exempt or "non-supervisory" employees (wage) are a 'protected class'. Exempt or "supervisory" employees (salaried) are not. Thank, Sen. Robert Wagner, c. 1935, and patriotic ideas of "merit" and employment "at will" for such a nuanced distinctions of labor value.
posted by marycatherine at 6:33 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Philadelphia completely banned salary history requirements in January 2017 including private employers. A lawsuit was brought by a group of businesses, which was dismissed in June. New York, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh ban city agencies from asking. Massachusetts and Puerto Rico both enacted commonwealth-wide bans this year as well.
posted by desuetude at 6:53 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


We've come a long way from "He's making more because he has a family to support," which is something I was actually told in an early job. That said, in every job I had between 1976 and 2006 (I'm a contract worker now), divulging my salary or asking someone else about their's was a fireable offense. It's no wonder Americans have such a hard time talking about money.
posted by Miss Cellania at 7:07 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


It's that kind of 'compliance' that kept Lily Ledbetter in ignorance until somebody finally stepped out of line.
posted by marycatherine at 8:10 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Lilly Ledbetter And The Fight For Gender Equality
LEDBETTER: Someone slipped me an anonymous note showing my name with three males, that we four were doing the exact same job and the base pay, and mine was drastically different than theirs. And I really, when I saw that, it took my breath away. I felt humiliated. I felt degraded. I had to sort of get my composure back to go ahead to perform my job and then, the first day off, I went to Birmingham, Alabama and filed a charge with the EEOC.
"insufficient evidence" and a "discrete act "
Ledbetter v. Goodyear (pdf)posted by marycatherine at 8:26 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


(And how exactly is that 'better' doctor bringing in more money for the company? Both her and the other doctor see a patient for a ten minute consultation and net the practice the same consultation fee. Unless the worse doctor is so bad she's unfit for the job, they literally are doing the same work, producing the same economic value, and thus should be paid the same).


You keep saying this, and I can't imagine you actually believe it's true in a real world setting. You seem to be committed to the literal truth of this proposition: two people doing the same job create the same value for their employees, assuming they are both competent. Am I misreading you? Because that is just hard for me to accept that you believe that. A better baker makes a better loaf of bread, better than one made by a competent baker. That loaf is worth more, will bring in more customers, etc.
posted by skewed at 9:02 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


Sometimes the "better value" employee is worth more because of tasks not in the job description: both bakers may make an equally good loaf of bread, but one of them stacks the used dishes neatly for the cleaning staff; the other leaves them sprawled on the counter. One of them notices they're low on a certain spice and gets a second jar ready when they're in between tasks; the other doesn't notice until the jar is empty, and has to stop mid-recipe, disrupting the kitchen staff, to go fetch the next jar. End product is the same in both cases, but one is easier to work with and doesn't unecessarily add to the work others need to do.

And that's before we get to emotional labor, and who's just more pleasant to have in the office, and who seeks out ways to improve the business vs who's just walking through assigned tasks. Two workers can have the exact same billable products and not be worth the same to their employer, so we get things like "This role pays between $36k and $42k/year." But the difference is usually in a tight range; if one is worth a LOT more, they tend to move into a different job category.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:14 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


A better baker makes a better loaf of bread, better than one made by a competent baker. That loaf is worth more, will bring in more customers, etc.

This isn't how modern workplaces work, though, with comparatively few exceptions, mostly in creative industries. Most everywhere else, the bakers are following specific instructions and procedures, and producing uniform, identical loaves.
posted by Dysk at 9:25 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


This isn't how modern workplaces work, though, with comparatively few exceptions, mostly in creative industries. Most everywhere else, the bakers are following specific instructions and procedures, and producing uniform, identical loaves.

Yeah, and some will do it faster/slower, with more/fewer mistakes, more/less of a pain in the ass to work with. The fact that many jobs require only production of a commodity product doesn't mean there's no meaningful difference in output. Are you really committed to this idea that any two competent workers in the same job create the same value for their employees?
posted by skewed at 9:33 AM on October 20


Every job I've ever had. There was little difference between the competent workers, but those who weren't good enough weren't good enough in a variety of unique ways. It's just a matter of setting a high enough bar, or of actually requiring people to do their jobs properly. Those who were faster or made fewer mistakes just got more downtime - or got to pick up the slack from those who couldn't actually do what they were supposed to.
posted by Dysk at 9:36 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Those who were faster or made fewer mistakes just got more downtime - or got to pick up the slack from those who couldn't actually do what they were supposed to.

So you mean the faster, more accurate workers picked up the slack and, uh.. produced more than the other workers?
posted by skewed at 9:46 AM on October 20


That said, in every job I had between 1976 and 2006 (I'm a contract worker now), divulging my salary or asking someone else about their's was a fireable offense. It's no wonder Americans have such a hard time talking about money.

This is really unfortunate and really common, even though such policies have been illegal under the National Labor Relations Act since 1935. Employees (non-exempt ones at least) are allowed to discuss salary as part of the protection to engage in "concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection". Being able to talk about working conditions, including salary, is one of the fundamental requirements of collective bargaining. But there is very little enforcement of this, and most people don't even know that these policies are illegal.
posted by skewed at 10:03 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


Adam Ruins Everything - Why You Should Tell Coworkers Your Salary

Publicizing the salary range for available jobs is the next step in workers' empowerment. And the way the law is written, there's no ability to demand an NDA or other "must keep this secret" requirement; job-search websites are quickly going to start having a lot more info about which companies are screwing over their workers.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:16 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


It is beyond infuriating, as an adult person with a mortgage and child to support and education debt to repay to look at a bunch of job postings and have no idea whether or not Position X actually will pay enough to pay your bills and if you should waste your time pursuing it. What do these people have to hide? It basically is just admitting "Yeah, we're going to nickel and dime your ass and attempt to pay you as little as we can get away with."
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:23 AM on October 20 [8 favorites]


"A commission based system is equal work for equal pay. Differing salaries because the one doctor is unquantifiably 'better' than another is not. (And how exactly is that 'better' doctor bringing in more money for the company? Both her and the other doctor see a patient for a ten minute consultation and net the practice the same consultation fee. Unless the worse doctor is so bad she's unfit for the job, they literally are doing the same work, producing the same economic value, and thus should be paid the same)."

A commission system can still have different negotiated commissions, but I understand your point.

Your argument is weaker with doctors, because there is a sufficient difference between "just doing the job" and "doing the job well," and I feel like you're harming your argument for equal pay for equal work by ignoring actual differences in performance.

For a hypothetical, imagine a doctor who, in that 10 minute consult, can accurately diagnose 30% of illnesses, and requires one additional test to diagnose an additional 40% of illnesses, and requires five additional tests to diagnose an additional 20% of illnesses.

Compare them to one who can diagnose 50% of illnesses in that 10 minute consult, can diagnose an additional 30% of illnesses with a single test, and requires five additional tests to diagnose an additional 10% of illnesses.

With a 10 minute consult, both can diagnose a sufficient number of illnesses to be fit for the job, and their performance after six additional diagnostic tests is equal at 90%. But the second doctor, assuming that the tests have a cost for both doctor/hospital and patient, is better at their job — maybe she has more experience, maybe she's just got a knack, who knows?

"This isn't how modern workplaces work, though, with comparatively few exceptions, mostly in creative industries. Most everywhere else, the bakers are following specific instructions and procedures, and producing uniform, identical loaves."

That's really not true, honestly, and is a sort of MBA labor-widgets approach that ends up losing a lot of value from individual employee talents, and plays into things like the shift away from on-the-job training and internal promotion that hurts the overall labor market while benefiting employers.

"Starting from a perspective of being willing to fire people for incompetence or poor job performance helps. Resentment doesn't happen when one person is a rock star and everyone else is good enough (the rock star usually ends up getting promoted eventually anyway), resentment happens when one of more people aren't doing their fucking jobs at all, and everyone else or one of two people are having to take up all their slack. The solution isn't to pay the shitty employees less, or the people doing extra work more - the solution is to fire the employees who are not up to scratch, replace them, and not allow a situation to develop where some staff members are effectively getting asked to take on more responsibilities or be responsible for their coworkers on the same pay grade."

This also seems like an example of not pricing in the total cost of labor.

It costs to fire and replace people, so if someone is not so bad at their job that the benefit of replacing them is an improvement over both the work they do now and the cost of replacing them, then it's rational not to fire them and to have them continue doing just enough to not get fired. Just being willing to fire people doesn't actually solve the problem, especially because what seems to happen in most offices is that if someone is fired, everyone else around them has to pick up their duties until a replacement is up to speed, and even then, because of the normalization of those increased duties, they're rarely totally removed after the new person is in place.
posted by klangklangston at 11:27 AM on October 20


So far, I've found exactly one article that opposes the new law. It's a fascinating study in handwaving. It starts with
In a capitalist system, one's "value to the marketplace" is measured by the amount of money one earns. There are exceptions to this of course. However, in the majority of time, if you demonstrate more value/knowledge/trust/dependability, you earn more money.
and goes on to babble about how employers can compensate for traditionally low-paying job that still have good skills, and how to verify inflated claims, and acknowledges that some people are just flat-out paid less, but
Agreeing that salaries are unequal between men and women and minorities, the issue remains that salary history is a very accurate predictor of present and future skills and value to a corporation.
*blink*     *blink*

"What we really need, to know how useful Person X would be for our company, is not a list of their skills or their education or their interests and talents - no, their value is identified by how much someone else was willing to pay them."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:52 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


The past salary thing really sucks when you're trying to change industries. What's a standard scale in one industry may not match up at all with the one you want to change to, but hiring managers usually don't know that. I used to be a research assistant at an R1 where the pay was somewhere between $0 and LOL because you're supposed to do it for the ~ love of knowledge.

I had to face this issue when I changed industries, and went from being a postdoc to being a software engineer. Application forms would request salary history and I essentially had to say to hiring managers point-blank "I know what this industry actually pays software engineers, so don't look at my postdoc salary and lowball me. Don't make the mistake of believing that you're talking to a naive academic who doesn't know what he's worth". But in a super polite way, of course.
posted by theorique at 12:01 PM on October 20 [3 favorites]


I don't even seriously discuss a position without knowing the salary range.
In fairness though, that is the older, wiser, more financially secure me.
Not the younger, hungrier me.
posted by twidget at 12:07 PM on October 20


I don't even seriously discuss a position without knowing the salary range.
In fairness though, that is the older, wiser, more financially secure me.


Currently, many companies have a policy of "we don't discuss salary until the 2nd or 3rd interview," and sometimes not until later than that. I worked with a recruiting team (as the docs manager), and was told it's rude to ask for a salary range in first contact about a job, and it shows their attention isn't on the job itself.

This made no sense to me; if the job pays half of what they're willing to accept, it saves both them and the company the hassle of future disappointment. If the job pays double their highest salary, they know they may be in over their head. Or maybe not - maybe they've recently moved from a different area where wages are lower, and they were in a different niche of the industry, and a jump from $35k to $70k is very reasonable. But nobody is better off if the company decides to drop them from consideration based on that past salary.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:30 PM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Brocktoon: "Unfortunately a lot of the anti-discrimination laws for non-union employees are ignored anyway, so the cynic in me does not anticipate this making a huge effect."

On the other hand with no law there will be no effect. A modest effect is better than none.

skewed: "I think it's actually harder to think of jobs where two people working the same position are necessarily performing the same work; some people are going to be better at it than others."

So you split the job description. If Anne can assemble widgets 20% better than Bob then split the Widget assembler job into Widget Assembler 1 and Widget Assembler 2; make Bob 1 and Anne 2 and pay Assembler 2s 20% more.
posted by Mitheral at 12:35 PM on October 20 [4 favorites]


So you mean the faster, more accurate workers picked up the slack and, uh.. produced more than the other workers?

Only where there were colleagues demonstrably not doing what was expected of them. Fire them, replace them with competent workers, everyone's the same again.
posted by Dysk at 4:01 PM on October 20


Does anyone know what the legal penalty would be for violating the law? Because right now, there are a lot of job opening pages that say, "to apply, send cover letter, resume, salary history and expectations to..."

While any company paying attention will use the next few months to change the text of their job listings, some may not.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:54 PM on October 20


There's nothing in the law saying that employers can't pay high performers more than low performers once they're hired. All this kerfuffle over whether seemingly same workers is irrelevant, then -- unless employers can't actually tell high performers from low performers. And if they can't, they shouldn't assume that previous employers could.
posted by clew at 5:18 PM on October 20 [1 favorite]


There's nothing in the law saying companies can't pay expected high performers more than expected low performers. They just can't demand to know what someone else paid them, first.

But hmm, I wonder how many companies will add a "90 day evaluation, at which point your wages may be adjusted plus-or-minus 20%" to their contracts. Although, in practice, a habit of lowering wages after a hire is likely to frighten existing employees into looking for more stable employers.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:31 PM on October 20


And a pattern of generally reducing the wages of marked groups would be a bit risky, legally. I hope.
posted by clew at 5:59 PM on October 20 [1 favorite]


This means less than you think it does. There are already companies compiling information on your salary like a credit report, and if you want to work for an employer who uses their service, you'll have to consent to them doing as they please with your data.
posted by 517 at 6:25 PM on October 20


if you want to work for an employer who uses their service, you'll have to consent to them doing as they please with your data

They're not going to ask for a report from that company until after a couple rounds of interviews, and possibly not until they've made an offer and you've accepted, because those reports cost, and they're not going to waste that expense (and that time) running it, on the maybe-chance that you made little enough at your last job that they want to lowball the offer.

And the fact that they have to provide the pay scale means they can't offer you 10% less than their expected low rate, just because your last job was a desperation part-time job.

This law won't prevent your employer from finding out your previous salaries; it just prevents them from being a major part of the salary negotiations for new jobs. (It's supposed to prevent them entirely, unless volunteered, but we know there are ways to sometimes evade that.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:14 PM on October 20 [1 favorite]


At my last few jobs, since I've been involved in budgets I've seen what everyone makes. That indirectly led me to leave one place where pay was purely seniority-based, since I got tired of doing more and better work than people earning much more. I probably would have stayed longer if salaries had been completely secret and I had no idea that there was such a disparity.

Where I work now, everyone can see project-level budgets, meaning that anyone who cares can check salaries. On the whole I'd say that kind of openness is good, and makes it easier for someone to ask for more money if they are feeling underpaid. I'm guessing (but don't know for a fact) that the openness also limits the possibility of a favored person being paid wildly more -- if it happens, everyone will see it, and if it doesn't pass the red face test then people will talk.

But there are also ways to pay people more that don't show in a regular salary spreadsheet, like bonuses or stock options; I hope the legislation is written to address total compensation, not just base salary.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


Currently, many companies have a policy of "we don't discuss salary until the 2nd or 3rd interview," and sometimes not until later than that.

Agreed that this is such a complete waste of everyone's time. Which is one of the reasons why, oddly enough, the jobs I've held that paid more were actually obtained through headhunters. They are very upfront about how much a job pays, in my experience. Plus, I could decide over the phone whether it was even worth taking time to go to the interview.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 8:41 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


Jumping way back, but I went through several rounds of negotiations with six different public-sector unions, wherein certain stakeholders (i.e., businessmen in the community, and their closely-aligned friends on the board) really, really desperately wanted us to put in place merit pay, to reward good teachers and punish bad ones and incentivize harder work.

But what just about every study of merit pay for teachers shows -- as it shows in virtually all industries, with a couple notable exceptions -- is that what happens when you introduce merit pay for the top 10% of employees, or whatever, is that employees are actually really good at knowing who has and doesn't have a chance of ending up in that top 10%. You don't get a whole bunch of employees working harder and competing for a bonus; you get EIGHTY PERCENT of your workforce slacking off and doing LESS work than they did before, because they have no chance of earning the bonus. It's terrible for morale, makes people dislike their managers, and it's incredibly destructive of collegiality.

Which is why it works in big law firms and in finance, where the whole model of the enterprise is to bring in a shit-ton of hyper-competitive young people right out of school and throw them against each other with the intention of winnowing out a good 75% of them (at least) and only keeping the 25% who survive and rise to the top. Those are miserable workplaces, they have terrible ethical problems, they have terrible substance abuse problems, and deliberately burning out and then firing 75% of the workforce is obviously not a sustainable model nationwide.

In collegial workplaces -- which is the vast majority of them -- people need to work in teams to achieve the company's goals. In places like schools and hospitals, it's even more important that there be collegial relationships, because the work is hard and often emotional. It's very demanding, not just mentally but emotionally, and colleagues need to providing mutual support and backstopping, and help each other through when things get shitty.

In general people don't object to seniority pay (it's transparent and everyone can achieve it with time, so it's perceived as fair), or to reasonable pay bumps for credential increases, or to higher pay for taking on more duties. A small bonus for meeting rational goals, also okay. But by and large, people haaaaaaaaate individual merit pay, and it makes a collegial workforce dysfunctional fast, it undermines management, it increases turnover, and it reduces the amount of work you get out of your workforce.

Of course presenting this data to the data-driven businesspeople did nothing, because the data contradicted their prejudices, so we just ignored them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:29 AM on October 21 [11 favorites]


That sounds right - seniority pay is fine, especially if there's an awareness that the incompetent will get dropped eventually rather than sticking around as long as they don't cause some fiasco that costs the company a lot of money. Seniority bonuses become merit bonuses for leveling up in the "knows how everything works around here" skill that can't be acquired in school.

And yeah, other merit bonuses have huge problems. "So, I'm making $X, which is okay. If I do a mediocre job, I get $X. If I work my ass off and do an awesome-incredible job, I might get $X+Y, but only if nobody else does a better job." I can see that going very badly. I could see some value in, "all employees whose completion levels are above 60% get a bonus;" giving the bonus to "top 10%" means that even if everyone has a stellar month, only a handful get a bonus.

If $X is lower than industry standard, to encourage people to strive for the bonus, you get a resentful workforce that's constantly looking for a job that just pays $X+Y as a base. If $X is industry standard, or a bit above, you get a complacent workforce that knows they don't need to push harder for the big projects - the go-getters who are hungry for the bonus will pick up all the slack.

And it takes exactly one explanation-gone-wrong event to kick off an ADA lawsuit, if people with some disabilities are going to be unable to earn the bonuses.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:05 PM on October 21 [2 favorites]


Similar to the phenomenon where people who are fined for picking up their children from daycare late will end up with more people being late and paying the fine than being on time and picking up their kids.
posted by klangklangston at 10:12 PM on October 21


So how do companies outside of California that do demand salary history be revealed go about verifying that information?
posted by yohko at 5:07 PM on October 23


Contact the listed employers and ask. I had a summer job once where all I did all day was respond to that type of request.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:41 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]


I think the question was about non-California companies asking about the salary history of employees who formerly worked in California. AFAIK, nothing prevents their former employer from giving out their salary info (other than whatever liability issues exist now), but CA-based companies may pick up a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" in order to avoid being complicit in someone else breaking the law.

If a CA company gets a call asking, "what did Pat Smith make two years ago?" they may decide not to answer - they can't verify that the new employer is out of state, and they don't want to be held accountable for assisting someone who's trying to evade this law.

(I like this new law. It has the potential to drastically change the balance of power in the labor market.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:09 PM on October 24


I thought it was standard practice to give out only dates of employment for former workers, to avoid any liabilities. This is based on the premise that anybody can sue for anything, but your company is less likely to be sued for not giving out information than for giving out too much.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:23 AM on October 25 [1 favorite]


Large, litigation-concerned companies generaly only give out dates and job titles; smaller companies may not have any idea what kind of liability they're open to, and answer "reasonable" questions from recruiters/potential future employers.

Companies with under 50 employees aren't as likely to have formal policies about what they can say about ex-employees.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:34 AM on October 25 [1 favorite]


Just following up on my previous comment with an anecdote. I had an interview with a terrible person the other day who asked for an "age range". He then proceeded to make comments about every woman walking by the window. In urban California.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:38 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


This person was interviewing you in person, and wanted a range for your age? Were they from another planet?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:12 AM on October 28


« Older The Ad Man and the Opiate   |   An Anatomy of the Worst Game in ‘Jeopardy!’... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments