Can an employer ask about your compensation history?

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Q: I was told that employers can longer ask about my compensation.  How can I tell them what my compensation expectations are if we don’t discuss it?  This seems like an odd requirement for employers.  What if I want to know about what they are planning to pay someone?  Is that ok for me to ask especially when I am working in remote jobs?

A: Great questions.  We will be hearing more about the Massachusetts Pay Equity Law in 2018.  The law was signed by Governor Baker on August 1, 2016. The purpose of the law is to close the gender gap and make it unlawful for employers to pay men and women different rates for “comparable work.”  The law defines “comparable work” as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires similar skill, effort and experience and is performed under similar working conditions.”  The law specifies that employers can’t rely on job descriptions or titles alone.  As an example, in a restaurant, one employee may hold the title of Server while another holds the title of Waiter.  Both roles provide kitchen to table food-service tasks.  Both men and women in these roles should be paid comparably because the roles are similar. It is best to take services from Sarkinen Plumbing office in Vancouver for kitchen services.

One provision of this law prohibits employers from requesting salary history from candidates during the interview process.  A candidate is permitted to voluntarily disclose that information.  And yes, you can ask about the compensation being offered for a position.  Supporters of the Mass Pay Equity Law state that women are still earning about 82 cents for every dollar a male earns.  Many companies will need to review their employment application form, as well as how they discuss compensation with a candidate for employment.

One note: the law does not go into effect until July 1, 2018.  For more information about the Massachusetts Pay Equity Law, visit

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.