Should You Ask Applicants for their Salary History?

QualityPro’s goal has always been to set companies up for success at the highest level of professionalism within the pest management industry. Part of this process is making sure that accredited companies always have the most up-to-date information for their office management and hiring practices. In the past, we’ve touched base on cannabis legalization and what that means for QualityPro’s drug testing standards, and updates on states where criminal history questions on employment applications are banned. Now the legislative battle taking place is whether companies are allowed to ask new applicants for a salary history as part of the application.

While QualityPro’s recommendation is no longer that employers ask applicants about criminal matters during the application process (and have updated our template on to reflect this), asking for a salary history is more of a moving target. The issue is being ruled on at both the state and municipal level, with some areas banning it for employers and some states prohibiting any salary history bans at the city level. As salary history bans continue to gain in popularity across the country, QualityPro is working closely with Seay Management Consultants, our HR partner, to keep track of these local rulings as part of a full review of the QualityPro program so that companies are aware of their particular situation.

In the meantime, there are currently 18 states and territories where salary history bans have been enacted that would affect QualityPro companies. These include:

  • Alabama
  • California (including contractors and subcontractors)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii (including employment agencies)
  • Illinois (employers can discuss applicant’s pay expectations)
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri (employers can discuss applicant’s pay expectations)
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio (specifically employers in Toledo or Cincinnati)
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Alongside these laws, in attempts to combat pay inequality, some of this legislation goes further and prohibits employers from merely removing the salary history question. A few of these states (California, for example) also prohibit the employer from using any salary history information discovered or volunteered by the applicant to determine compensation or hiring (though some, like Hawaii, allow this information to factor into the decision if the applicant does volunteer it). As noted, some states have yet to enact legislation on the subject, but individual cities within the state have (see Ohio’s case with Toledo and Cincinnati).

On the other hand, Wisconsin and Michigan have both banned salary history bans within the state. Local governments may not regulate the information that employers must request, require or exclude on an application for employment or during the interview process.

To best accommodate changing legislation, and to make sure our companies are armed with the correct resources either way, QualityPro currently has two template Fillable Employment Applications available through—one with salary history questions and one without. Our recommendation is that you use the latter out of an abundance of caution, but if you prefer to use the version with them, then we want to empower you with the information necessary to make sure that choice is legal. The QualityPro Toolbox also includes a sheet of salary history bans to consult against for your state.

Data has shown that removing salary history questions from employment applications quantifiably decreases existing pay gaps for minority candidates. Potential applicants from these groups will see the removal of this question as a value-add when applying for jobs at your business. We believe that the application process can proceed as normal, and that the same information can be captured, without the question. A business might consider avoiding the whole issue by including a salary range with the job posting and letting applicants self-select, saving both of you time. In cases where an interviewer may want to gauge an applicant’s pay expectations without asking for a salary history, there’s no rule against simply asking what the employee hopes to earn. In most cases there’s nothing preventing an applicant from volunteering their current salary to set employer applications so long as that information is not the only reason the employer rejects a potential application. In general, when in doubt, we recommend checking with your local Department of Labor or equivalent agency.

QualityPro is administered by the Foundation for Professional Pest Management, an independent organization that has been developing good business practices and standards since 2004. Designed specifically for pest management companies in the U.S. and Canada, we are proud to certify over 500 of the best companies in the pest management industry. QualityPro is endorsed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). For more information, contact us at [email protected].