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Pay Secrecy and Salary History: What Not to Do.

Let’s address one of the biggest employment elephants in the room: Wage discussions. If your organization is currently enforcing pay secrecy or asking candidates for their salary history, you need to immediately update your policies.

Whether you have a section in your handbook, a stipulation in an offer letter, or you orally communicate your expectation about pay secrecy to your employees, you are likely violating federal law and state law. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that employers cannot prevent employees from discussing wages or job conditions.

And if you ask job candidates about their salary history to help determine your salary offer, you may be violating state law and inadvertently perpetuating pay discrimination. A growing list of states are implementing salary history bans—and the last thing you want to do is create more HR/legal headaches!  

While we focus on New England here, be aware that many other states, territories, and localities in the United States have similar laws in place.

StateAnti-Pay Secrecy LawsSalary History Bans
FederalYes, federal contractors under Executive Order 11246 and most employers under the National Labor Relations Act No. Still, employers risk perpetuating pay discrimination and violating federal and state anti-discrimination laws
New HampshireYesNo
Rhode IslandYesYes

Many of the above states also have additional protective legislation focusing on pay equity requirements and the sharing of wage ranges to applicants and employees.  Be sure to do your homework by checking your state’s Department of Labor, consulting with an Employment Attorney, or working with an experienced HR Consultant to ensure compliance and training for your managers and supervisors. 

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