New Jersey may join Philadelphia in banning employers from asking new hires about salary history

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

If you’re looking to hire that new employee and you’re located in New Jersey, you may soon have to be very careful about discussing his or her prior wages. Actually, you may not be allowed to discuss this at all.

Fox Business reports that the state’s legislature–currently under Democratic control–has passed legislation that bars employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history. The issue recently received national attention back in February, when Philadelphia became the first major city to pass similar legislation.

The idea behind this trend is to try and close the wage gap between men and women, according to this February report from the Society for Human Resource Management. The article cites a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report that concluded women are paid 79 cents for every dollar that men are paid and that women of color earn even less.  The Philadelphia law took effect this past May and is expected to have a significant impact on employers over the next few years.

“It’s going to be a sea change for employers of all sizes,” John Lee, an attorney with Morgan Lewis in Philadelphia, said in the SHRM article. “Businesses have long relied on applicants’ past wages to get a handle on the market value of a particular position and to use that to gauge competitiveness.” Besides Philadelphia and potentially New Jersey, both Massachusetts and New York State have similar bans taking effect and other states and large cities also have legislation under consideration.

Many believe the less an employer knows about an applicant’s salary history, the more apt they’ll base decisions on merit. Opponents of the legislation–mostly business groups– are concerned that employers will have less information to make decisions and are further being hamstrung by government regulations.

The decision now rests with Republican Gov. Chris Christie. His spokesman said in a publicly released email that the governor’s office “doesn’t comment on pending legislation.”

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