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California takes new step to prevent women from discrimination

There's a very subtle way that women are discriminated against in the job market.

It's so subtle, in fact, that most women probably don't give it much thought or even realize that it has the capacity to lock them in a gender-based cycle of unequal pay for equal work.

Now, California's governor has signed a bill that should help stop that subtle form of gender discrimination by prohibiting would-be employers from asking job applicants how much they used to make on their prior job (or what they make now).

If the applicant asks what the prospective job will pay, employers have to give the applicant a pay or salary range -- presumably based on the experience and qualifications the applicant brings to the job.

This erases a "locked in" pay gap that many women were stuck with over the years. If they were paid unequally for equal work at one previous job, then the next employer based their salary off that job, it perpetuated the pay gap (and the gender discrimination that went with it) into the next job -- and then the next.

The law applies to all public and private employers of any size. In addition, former or current employers are not permitted to release information about an employee's salary without that employee's consent.

This bill may create a little havoc until employers get used to it, because asking someone's salary history has long been a customary question on job applications. If a company has locations in different states, it will have to either adjust company policy to conform to California's new law or adopt different job applications depending on where the applicant is located.

Naturally, there were a number of employers who were against the bill, saying it keeps them from negotiating wages and gives employees a whole new reason to sue. The governor, however, was unapologetic about the bill, which even enjoyed bipartisan support among legislatures.

Keep in mind that if you volunteer the information about your past salary, your employer is allowed to use that information to set your new salary or negotiate -- so handle your words carefully.

If you do feel pressured to divulge the salary information, there's a good possibility that you're facing some sort of workplace discrimination. An attorney can assess the situation and help you decide how to proceed from there.

Source: SFGATE, "New law bans California employers from asking applicants their prior salary," Kathleen Pender, Nov. 07, 2017

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