Soon it May be Illegal to Talk About Your Salary History

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Common sense would dictate that if you're qualified for a particular job, you would be able to make your case for your employment based on your unique qualifiers. Your current salary then should only come up if you want to make a particular point about them, not as a routine line of questioning — after all, we all know that salaries don't always align up with the work that you're actually doing. Perhaps this job is your first, and you didn't know how to negotiate a salary before taking it; or, you're working at a non-profit and are now seeking work in the private sector.

Whatever the case, potential employers asking for your current salary can be a point of embarrassment or even used against you in your negotiation. But that may soon be a thing of the past: A new bill proposal will prevent employees from asking about your current salary before they've made an offer or specified a salary on their own side.

Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Rose DeLauro (Connecticut), and Jerrold Nadler (New York) are planning on bringing forth this bill in late 2016. In Rep. Norton's news release, her office specifically mentions that "[t]he bill seeks to eliminate the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter"; after all, even if you're climbing the corporate ladder on pace with your white male counterparts, that doesn't mean that much if you're starting off at a lower base salary at every rung of the way.

Massachusetts recently became the first state to actually introduce this current salary question ban, and now these lawmakers are hoping to expand that requirement to the rest of the United States. This ban may seem like a very small step in making the interview process a little fairer to prospective employees, but its ramifications are quite large.

Say, for example, that you've been at a lower-paying position at a non-profit. You did great work there and only really left the field because of the salary. When you're asked about your salary during an interview, if you're the only person coming out of the non-profit world in that candidate pool, chances are that your salary will be lower than those of other applicants. In theory, this information could "boost" your chances of getting hired because hey, you'd be the cheapest person to hire. But in reality, what it also means is that your current salary doesn't account for all the context of your job, and may affect how you're treated and literally valued at your next gig.

When you're walking into a job interview, you don't want to feel like your current employment is holding you back, just as you want to believe that those in a hiring position want to value you as highly as possible. But alas, until that kind of day comes, having federal law at your back when you walk into an interview is probably the next best thing.