Washington is poised to become the ninth state to pass a law that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

The state legislature recently passed HB 1696, which would, among other things, prohibit employers from inquiring into the prior “wage or salary history” of an applicant for employment. The bill has been sent to Governor Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit an employer from seeking the salary history of an applicant for employment from either the applicant or the applicant’s current or former employer. Employers would also be prohibited from requiring that an applicant’s prior salary history “meet certain criteria,” a phrase which is not further defined in the bill.

However, an employer would be permitted to confirm an applicant’s salary history:

  • if the applicant voluntarily discloses their salary history; or
  • after the employer has negotiated and made an offer of employment with compensation to the applicant.

Notably, the bill does not define what forms of compensation or other metrics would be considered part of an applicant’s “wage or salary history.” It also does not expressly permit employers to engage in discussions with an applicant about their compensation expectations for the position they are seeking, which is a common provision in other jurisdictions’ salary history laws. Nevertheless, even in the absence of such a provision, there is an argument to be made that inquiring solely about an applicant’s salary expectations or requirements (without also inquiring about their salary history) would not violate the law.

The bill would further require employers with fifteen or more employees, upon request of an applicant after an initial offer of employment has been made, to provide the minimum wage or salary for the position for which the applicant is applying. Such employers would also be required, upon request of a current employee being offered an internal transfer or promotion, to provide the wage scale or salary range for the new position being offered. If no wage scale or salary range exists, the employer would then have to provide the “minimum wage or salary expectation set by the employer prior to posting the position, making a position transfer, or making the promotion.”

In addition to the authority of the Washington Department of Labor and Industries to investigate and enforce claims, individuals alleging violations under the bill would be permitted to bring a private right of action. Potential remedies would include compensatory and statutory damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other legal and equitable relief.

If enacted, the law would take effect 90 days after signing. We will continue to monitor this bill, as well as developments with regard to salary history laws around the country.

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Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages…

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York TimesReutersBloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters such as executive transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He also has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated and arbitrated cases, including at FINRA and its predecessors, for more than 20 years.
A prolific author and speaker, Allan was the Editor of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Journal from 2012 to 2017. He has served as an author, editor and contributor to a number of leading treatises in the field of employment law, including ADR in Employment Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Senior Editor), Employment Discrimination Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Final Proof Editor), Cutting Edge Advances in Resolving Workplace Disputes (Cornell University/CPR, Editor), The Employment Law Review (Law Business Research, U.S. Chapter Author), and The Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual (SCCE, Chapter Author).

Allan is a member of the NYSBA’s House of Delegates, sits on the Executive Committee of the NYSBA’s Labor and Employment Law Section, and is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He has been recognized as a leading practitioner by Chambers since 2011.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns…

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns, with a focus on legal compliance, risk management and mitigation strategies, and workplace culture considerations.

Laura regularly counsels clients across numerous industries on a wide variety of employment matters involving recruitment and hiring, employee leave and reasonable accommodation issues, performance management, and termination of employment . She also advises on preparing, implementing and enforcing employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics including discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog and The Proskauer Brief podcast.