Employers are no longer allowed to ask interviewees their previous salaries in some US states. Picture: iStock
Employers are no longer allowed to ask interviewees their previous salaries in some US states. Picture: iStock

Interview question that’s been banned

"WHAT was your previous salary?"

It's one of the most common interview questions, but can be awkward to answer.

Do you reply honestly? Risk tacking an extra 10 per cent onto what you're actually earning? Or do you politely deflect and divert back to your capabilities?

Several states and companies in the United States have banned employers from asking about salary history, arguing it contributes to the wage gap between men and women.

Last month, a US federal court ruled that employers could no longer use salary history to justify paying women less than men for their work, CNN reported.

The move was sparked by the Rizo versus Fresno County Office of Education case, in which California maths consultant Aileen Rizo learnt that her male counterparts were earning significantly higher wages than her, despite her seniority and experience.

Ms Rizo filed a lawsuit, but a three-judge panel ruled against her case in 2017, based on the Ninth Circuit's 1982 decision that it was permissible to use prior wages under the Equal Pay Act. The recent decision overturned the 1982 ruling.

"Women are told they are not worth as much as men," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the Ninth Circuit's opinion. "Allowing prior salary to justify a wage differential perpetuates this message, entrenching in salary systems an obvious means of discrimination."

California, Massachusetts and New York are among the states that have since passed laws prohibiting employers from asking interviewees about their previous salaries. Amazon, Google and Starbucks have done the same.

Figures released in November showed the pay gap in Australia is continuing to narrow, with women now earning $26,527 a year less than men.

That represents a 22.4 per cent pay gap for 2016-17, down from 23.1 per cent the previous year. The figure has slowly but consistently decreased each of the four years the agency has been putting together the scorecard.

However, while 43 per cent of promotions into management went to women last year, they're still under-represented in Australian boardrooms, at a static 24.9 per cent.