The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has just signed a new law that prohibits employers from asking how much a worker earned in his or her prior jobs. This law is an important protection for people applying for temporary work visas, above all for people with J-1, TN, H-1B, and other visas where they have more flexibility to negotiate a higher salary than in visa categories like H-2A and H-2B.
The purpose of the law is to help eliminate pay discrimination, especially discrimination against women who earn less than men for the same work. If employers pay women less, and furture employers can ask about their past salaries, employers can perpetuate pay discrimination. Although employers cannot ask about past wages, if an employee volunteers the information, employers can use it to determine the worker’s salary.
The states of Delaware, Massachusetts, and Oregon, as well as New York City (though New York State) have recently passed similar laws.