Asking about Prior Salaries Perpetuates Gender Wage Gap

Tuesday, April 12, will mark Equal Pay Day, the annual day symbolizing how many additional days in the year women have to work to earn the same amount as men.

One would expect Equal Pay Day to be occurring earlier every year, as we focus more attention on policies and laws to help boost pay equity, but the reality is that the wage gap has barely budged over the past 10 years. This is mainly due to employers that perpetuate wage inequities by anchoring women to their prior salaries.

Women in California now make 84 cents for every dollar a white man makes. For African American and Hispanic women, the wage gap is at 63 and 44 cents, respectively, for every $1 a white man makes. For these women, it is extremely difficult to ever catch up in pay because employers will use their reduced prior salaries to try and get a bargain.

To help put an end to this insidious cycle of gender wage inequities in the labor market, Assembly member Nora Campos has introduced AB 1676* to prohibit employers from basing salary decisions on prior earnings. By allowing women to negotiate a salary based on more objective criteria, like education and experience, and not be penalized by lower earnings in a previous job, women will have a better chance to catch up in pay.

Basing salary decisions on prior earnings not only adversely impacts women who were discriminated against in a prior job, but also women who may have left the job market after having kids.

Government officials recently started recognizing the discriminatory impact that prior salaries can have on women in the job market. Last April, on Equal Pay Day, the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advised employers on important steps they could take to ensure equal pay for equal work, including eliminating “discriminatory pay gaps on the basis of prior salary …”

Additionally, in July of last year, the acting director of the Federal Office of Personnel Management provided guidance on advancing pay equality in the federal government, warning that reliance on salary history “could potentially adversely affect a candidate who is returning to the workplace after having taken extended time off from his or her career or for whom an existing rate of pay is not reflective of the candidate’s current qualifications or existing labor market conditions.”

Courts have also warned employers against relying on salary history to try to drive down bargains during salary negotiations. In a recent pay discrimination case in California, a female math consultant challenged her employer’s policy of basing her incoming salary on prior earnings, which put her at $20,000 less than her male counterpart who was doing the same work. The court stated that the employer’s pay structure was “so inherently fraught with the risk—indeed, here, the virtual certainty—that it will perpetuate a discriminatory wage disparity between men and women that it cannot stand, even if motivated by a legitimate non-discriminatory business purpose.”

It’s time for us to take a stand on discriminatory policies that systematically devalue women and perpetuate gender wage inequities. We need to provide women with a fair opportunity to close earning gaps during salary negotiations and compel employers to use objective and unbiased measures to evaluate candidates. AB 1676 will do just that, giving women the ability to finally achieve pay equity in the workplace.

Mariko Yoshihara is the policy director for the California Employment Lawyers Association and a member of The Stronger Califrnia Advocates Network.

* A staffer for Assembly member Nora Campos submitted this op-ed to San Jose Inside.— Editor

36 Comments

    • Good point Mr Cortese. Where do we find this info? It would be very helpful for those of us that will have both their names on our ballots for State Senator in the coming months

  1. It’s a general rule that the one who names a number first in a negotiation leaves money on the table. So the objective in a salary negotiation is never to reveal what your expectations are or how much you make. If they want you, eventually they’ll be first to start talking dollars. I read a book on salary negotiation many years ago and it said if they really, really pressure you to tell them how much you’re making, then add in your estimate of the value of every kind of benefit you get including health insurance, life insurance, free working lunches, whatever, and tell them that number with a straight face.

    No doubt we crusty old savages understand that and ask for $100k while the gals want to be goody two-shoes and think they have to admit they make only $23.45/hour. So he gets $80k and she gets $60k.

  2. > Women in California now make 84 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

    Well, then.

    Just include sex change operations and skin whiteners in Obamacare coverage.

    Problem solved.

  3. Vacancy Vaquero’s comment should be booed loudly. So, thinking he lacked the information necessary to best serve his interests he went out on his own and got it… by reading a book. What, are we supposed to expect working women to do the same? Hasn’t he gotten the word? Women’s self-interests, like those of children, deserve the protection of a higher power, in this case, the tyrannical power of government.

  4. Equal pay for Equal work is inherently fair! In 2015, women worked 72% as many hours as men did for pay. Women worked more hours doing unpaid work, such as childcare and household care.

    This year, Equal Work Day falls on May 19 – check http://www.work-equity.org for the facts!

  5. All I know is that my ex-wife earns a paycheck of her own and then takes almost half of mine as well. How about addressing alimony inequality? My ex might be making 84 cents on every dollar compared to what a man earns but she takes about 40 cents of every dollar I earn!

  6. Prior salary is only one factor. You must also know that employers will give a woman a different title, expect her to do the same work, and pay her less. The trick is giving her a different title. :(

    • > The trick is giving her a different title. :(

      Oh, really.

      Are the job descriptions and performance plans EXACTLY THE SAME?

      I’ll bet not.

      So, what are we conclude from your paranoid, conspiratorial assertion? That employees of the female gender are more likely to jump to invidious judgements about their employers?

      A paranoid, conspiratorial employee of any gender is undoubtedly of less value to any organization than a team player.

          • This is funny. All of you people bashing each other….why is the Fire and Police Departments not included in this argument? They all get paid the same, if they have the qualifications, education and experience…and have passed the tests. Unions are good for something after all……

          • So “they all get paid the same”? And you think that’s a good thing?
            Aren’t some of them better at their jobs than others?
            Qualifications, education, experience, and passing tests are the only criteria by which an employee can be evaluated? What a worker actually IS and DOES doesn’t count for anything?
            You Fire and Police can keep your union ideals. Please don’t inflict your public sector values on those of us in the private sector.

          • Mr. Galt,

            If, as Goethe said, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action” then sir, your comments here are downright terrifying. The police department, as in most public sector entities, starts its personnel from the same start line. Each officer begins at the same rank and pay grade. As an officer begins to distinguish himself or herself, they are given step increases (all at the same increments). If a certain officer continues to excel, they may earn an opportunity to receive additional training and gain expertise in a certain area of interest; they may earn a spot in a specialized or investigative unit of interest and they may receive a promotion based on merit (You may have a basis for complaint in relation to promotions based on “affirmative” political “actions”, as well as on brown-nosing, and bootlicking but this is the same in the private sector as well). What public safety workers don’t get is commissions, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing or many of the other benefits so common in the private sector. Often these officers work for the pride that comes with a job well done, for the knowledge that a criminal and dope or weapons was taken off the street and to earn, not money, but the respect of their peers and a reputation for honor, integrity and as hard working. They don’t expend their discretionary extra effort simply for cash.

            How do you evaluate an officer who stops little Johnny, takes and books little Johnny’s weed into evidence then cites him into juvenile court as opposed to an officer who stops little Johnny, confiscates his weed, books it into evidence to be destroyed, but not until he gives little Johnny the most vigorous ass-chewing of his 17 year old life, and makes little Johnny cry, then releases little Johnny to parental custody? What pay raise do you give an officer who develops the experience to know which of those alternatives is the most appropriate, and in what situations, and when and therefore most likely to accomplish the Department’s mission?

            People like you, Mr. Galt (and I love you, man), complain that the public sector does not produce anything.Many private sector companies encourage repeat business. Should the Fire department then encourage people to be careless with combustible materials so that more fires will occur so the fire fighters can get raises or bonuses for putting out more fires? Discouraging repeat business is often a goal in the public sector. Do you want more crime and more fire calls?

            Lastly, let’s take a look at another group of, lazy, greedy public sector employees; the much maligned Teachers. So many socio-political bloviaters have constantly blathered on about merit pay for teachers. They argue that higher performing teachers should receive more pay than teachers whose students perform less well on standardized, arguably arbitrary tests. Ok. Let’s give out a merit based pay raise to a teacher.

            Our first teacher has a class of 30 students living in a lower socio-economic level and area, who may not speak English as a primary language at home and whose parents can’t help them with homework because dad has 2 jobs and mom works all day too and the kid has to do his homework after he does laundry and fixes dinner for his siblings when he gets home after school. The students in this class and situation, average “C”s with a couple “B”s.

            Our second teacher has a class of 25 snotty middle to upper-middle class white kids whose dads make 6 figures and whose moms makes in the upper 5 figures and who hire tutors for their kid(s), as well as a gardener, and a housekeeper who comes once a week to clean up. The students in this class average “A”’s and “B”’s.

            Which of these 2 public sector teachers, on the same pay scale, is working harder and achieving more success and is more deserving of a merit pay increase? Who’s creating more opportunity? Do you know? I think I do.

          • Thanks for the considered response. You really don’t need to be terrified of me despite what Goethe said.
            I was reacting to the comments of “Bohica” (who I believe is in SJFD) stating that “they all get paid the same”.

          • “if they have the qualifications, education and experience…and have passed the tests”.

            This was accidentally, i’m sure, left out of your explanation. Not having the eloquence, the time or the inclination to answer you Mr. Galt, I appreciate Mr. Robillard giving the explanation I dont have the energy or desire to give to the likes of you.

      • Besides, the topic is on Womens’ salaries….was it not? what do you have against women being paid the same as men in the Police and Fire services Mr. Galt?

        • Look. I veered off topic. Don’t really mean to pick a fight with you and I too don’t have the energy to debate in detail.
          What rankles me is the notion that’s being perpetuated that the “value” of an employee to his/her employer can be accurately summed up with such shallow criteria as “job title”, “job description”, “prior experience”, etc. This flawed reasoning lies at the heart of the “gender pay gap” activists argument. And as it happens, they have the model of public service to point to as the example to which they say all employers should be forced to adhere. I don’t buy it. I think we should be extremely wary of imposing such levels of control and regulation on private employers.

          • I understand your frustration. As you so astutely observed, I work for SJFD. This does not automatically position me to the scrap heap of liberal ideas or thought.

            I also own my own Company.

            I dont use as stringent hiring criteria as the Fire Department when I hire employees, however, they must have a certain amount of education and experience in the field to be considered hireable. I have no intention of limiting what they can make based on gender. I DO, however, have the ability to increase pay based on performance. The measure of performance in the Fire and Police ranks is experience, and the results of oral and written testing. This is called Promotion.
            Prior experience speaks volumes when the background involves customer interface, safety records, injury records etc…..This is the only way to have risk reduction when hiring new employees. The same is true when choosing a Captain, and Engineer or a Battalion Chief for promotion.

          • BOHICA,

            Just make sure in your private company that you provide a uni-sex restroom, available to all at the same time. I for one look forward to sharing the girls facilities, because I’m just a lesbian trapped in this inconvenient male body…

            …where was I? Oh, yeah: What business it is of government to set pay rates in the private sector?? How does that work, Miz Campos?

            Here’s how:

            There will be a new, immortal bureaucracy created, and if it follows past practice, a woman will head it and the bureaucrats will be female — with the exception of the obligatory token male. Hey, they might even have a couple of males! But one will have to be transgender, of course.

            That new (excessively compensated) bureaucracy will be tasked with equating, say, the pay of a plumber with that of a typist. (Not that women and men can’t be either, if they want; that’s not the point at all).

            This distortion of the free market (you know — the system that has given the world immense wealth) will turn efficiency upside down. People will gravitate to those jobs that are the easiest, and because they are the jobs that women typically do, the easy jobs will be paid the most, while the hard jobs will be paid less.

            This is just another step in the process: to each according to her needs…

            And what does “she” need? “She” needs to have a lot more money — but without the time and effort required to obtain a necessary skill. It is nothing more than confiscating the assets of the taxpayers who earned the money, and handing their money over to those who didn’t.

            This economic model has failed EVERYWHERE that it’s been tried; no exceptions. But does that total, abject, universal failure matter?

            No, not one little bit. Taxpayers and business owners have the money, and TPTB (The Powers That Be) intend to confiscate it to buy the votes of their ‘dindu nuffin’ supporters.

            Millions upon millions of women have worked hard, obtained an education, and now make better salaries than millions of men. There is nothing stopping the rest from doing exactly the same thing. But Nora Campos needs the votes, and she can count on support from those who will benefit at our expense, but without having ever lifted a finger or expended any effort themselves, other than voting for her.

            So the rest of us had better vote against Nora Campos. Because she’s not doing this with a penny of her own money. It never works like that. She is offering the ‘dindu nuffin’ crowd our money, whether we like it or not.

            This is just another step by America into a has-been great country.

            Thanx, Nora. I’m sure you can justify your theft. Because I can already feel your greedy fingers rooting around in my wallet.

          • Smokey,

            I 1099 all of my employees, and allow them to make whatever decisions they desire concerning their own income. AND, they are all contract workers. So no restroom issues to contend with. that would just be silly…..

  7. Lesson One in how women define equal pay for equal work:
    You’re a professional tennis player playing in the US Open. Women play a best of three matches against other women, while men play a best of five matches against other men. Both Singles winners received $3.3M each in prize money in 2015.
    In other words, women don’t want to compete head-to-head with men, and do about 60 per cent of the work as men, but they want the same amount of pay?!?

    • Tennis may be the only sport where women get the same pay and they play fewer games. However, the women generate more money in ticket sales and media coverage. Soccer, in the news lately, the women play just as many games, generate more ticket sales, and have more media viewership, yet they get 4 times less money, cheaper accomadations and fewer perks all around.
      Your comparison is not a fair one proving that male bosses purposely slant the truth to cover up for their personal greed.

      • > Your comparison is not a fair one proving that male bosses purposely slant the truth to cover up for their personal greed.

        This is unfair to male bosses.

        How do you know what male bosses are covering up. Are you reading their male minds?

        Did you read a book by a female activist? How does she know how to read male minds?

        You’re asserting female gender supremacy.

  8. It’s hard to understand how this “gender pay gap” issue, if successfully enacted upon legislatively, can be viewed as anything other than a gigantic step backward for women.
    It’s advocates are implicitly admitting that women, as individuals, are still too weak to stand up for themselves. Like helpless damsels in distress of the middle ages, women evidently are still crying out for to be rescued. The only difference is that they’d prefer their gallant saviors to be not knights in shining armor, but rather, freshly hired armies of government bureaucrats.

  9. Just want to call Mariko Yoshihara a standard template for the supremacist SJW for calling the diverse white American men by the label of “a white man.” By claiming the supremacist right to name the other by stripping them of their diversity and their nationality, she invalidates all her following comments so far as I am concerned.

  10. From the article:

    Women in California now make 84 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

    That’s RACISM, no?

    And:

    For African American and Hispanic women, the wage gap is at 63 and 44 cents, respectively, for every $1 a white man makes.

    That’s more RACISM.

    Why is it always the “White man”? Are Mexican men, or Black men, or Asian men all good, while “White men” are always the eee-ee-vil ones? How can anyone justify that overt racism with a straight face?

    Miz Yoshihara owes an abject apology to every “white man” she denigrates in her self-serving article.

    But it’s A-OK, because it’s all in a ‘good’ cause (the fallacy of ‘Noble Cause Corruption’ — emphasis on ‘corruption’). Yes, Yoshihara is corrupt: she wants to confiscate taxpayers’ earned income, and hand it to people who didn’t earn it. And all based on the fallacy of “comparable worth”.

    Here’s the central question: who gets to decide what jobs are “comparable”? Is a typist comparable to a bricklayer? &etc…

    Answer: unelected bureaucrats will decide, of course. Probably female bureaucrats; what do you think, folks? Isn’t that how these scams work?

    By law, women cannot be refused an opportunity to apply for and get a job based on their merit — any job. So what they really want is to be awarded an unfair and unearned advantage. They don’t want to have to actually, like, work for it.

    This whole scam is nothing more than a hoax to destroy the free market.

    Gals, if you’re good at your job, you will be paid a good wage. So please stop your endless sniveling, and get an education that brings in good money. The taxpaying public isn’t your Mommy, kissing your boo-boo and making everything all better.

    Quit your incessant complaining, get up off your butts (like “white men” do), and do what it takes to succeed. Millions of women do it; you can, too.

    No one is stopping you, or holding you down — except YOU.

    • > Women in California now make 84 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

      > That’s more RACISM.

      Well, it could be anti-Semitism, too.

      Have we ever decided whether Jews are “white”?

      Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and onetime moral guru for white politician Hillary Rodham Clinton, once wrote that: “Jews Are Not White”.

      On the other side of the coin, nationally syndicated talk show personality Mark Levin described himself as “white and Jewish”.

      So, if we factor out the logically included proposition: “Women in California now make 84 cents for every dollar a white Jewish man makes…”, well. . .does Mariko Yoshihara need to make a pilgrimage to Elie Wiesel and beg for forgiveness for her coded hate speech?

  11. This will all be solved when every one makes the same $15 an hour.
    Well, Government Bless Socialism.

    Anyone want to take a guess if female prostitutes will make 16% less than their male counterparts?

    We can work it back up from there!

  12. “the wage gap has barely budged over the past 10 years. This is MAINLY due to employers that perpetuate wage inequities by anchoring women to their prior salaries.”

    Even if you accept that gender discrimination is the source of the wage disparity between men and women which when adjusted for hours worked, experience and job type essentially disappears, the idea that the disparity is MAINLY due to anchoring finds no support. Where does the author get this silliness?

  13. From the article:

    Tuesday, April 12, will mark Equal Pay Day, the annual day symbolizing how many additional days in the year women have to work to earn the same amount as men.

    Lying with statistics. Men don’t bear children, which takes women out of the workforce for extended time periods. There are other examples of juggling statistics. In any case, they’re lying when they claim 84¢ for every dollar a white man makes. See, they’re comparing women of all races to white men, and it’s total BS. Could they be any more overtly racist?

    But here’s a statistic that’s factual: this year, the average taxpayer will have to work until April 24th before they start to collect any pay for themselves. Up to April 24th, all earnings for the year go to pay federal taxes (three days more than last year).

    Then there’s the state tax of close to 10%, along with sales taxes, also close to 10%. Now, that is a much bigger problem than what’s in this bogus article.

    So ‘scuse me if the womens’ ‘pay gap’ is not a priority. If women want to earn more, they need to do what men do: get a skill, or a worthwhile degree. The money will follow. Respect, too…

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