Rules around pay transparency and salary history are changing

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 07/15/2019

What employers need to know


Starting July 28, Washington state joins over a dozen other states that prohibit employers from asking about salary history. This legislation aims to protect employees from being restricted by their past wages and advance pay equity for women and people of color.

In the legislation it passed this spring, the state legislature notes that “the long-held business practice of inquiring about salary history has contributed to persistent earning inequalities.” For example, the bill notes women have been offered lower initial pay than men for the same jobs, even when their education and experience levels were the same or comparable.

Under the new law, employers cannot ask for a job applicant’s salary history. An employer may confirm a job applicant’s salary history only if an employee has voluntarily disclosed their salary history – or after the employer has negotiated and made an offer of employment with compensation to the applicant.

The new law also addresses pay transparency for employers with 15 or more employees:

  • Once a job applicant has been offered a position, if the applicant requests to know the minimum starting salary or wage for the position, the employer is required to provide that information.
  • If an employee is offered a transfer or promotion, the employer must provide the salary range for the new position. If a salary range for the position does not exist, the employer must provide the minimum salary expectation set by the employer.

Any violation of the new requirements could result in an investigation that will be resolved either through conciliation or a fine.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.