Amazon recently joined a growing list of employers, cities and states that have banned the dreaded salary question: What did you make at your previous job? If you’ve applied for a job in Oregon, California, Massachusetts, New York City, or Delaware recently, chances are you were decidedly not asked about your previous salary, thanks to new legislation banning the practice. And it isn’t just a question of legality; some employers are banning the practice themselves, including Facebook and Google.
Salary question bans are designed to address the gender pay gap and help ensure that “low pay doesn’t follow women from job to job and compound over time.”
The previous salary question often makes job seekers squirm, but it can be difficult to decide how to answer it, or if you even should. In an experiment conducted by economist Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, participants were shown videos of men and women asking for a raise following the exact same script. People liked the man’s style but found the woman to be “way too aggressive.”
With those statistics in mind, a ban on previous salary is a promising change, especially for millennials. With millions of underemployed college graduates in America, the implementation of these policies can only stand to benefit workers; one low-paying job at the beginning of your career doesn’t have to set a precedent for your salary at your next position.
In my first job after graduate school, I ended up making around $18,000 a year. If my next employer used that salary to make me an offer for my next position, it would have taken me several years (and many new positions and subsequent pay raises) to start making substantially more money.
Time will tell if this practice will continue to be implemented by lawmakers and companies alike, but it bodes well for current and future employees’ compensation.