California has taken several steps recently to make pay more equitable. For example, the Equal Pay Act was amended in 2016 to safeguard against wage discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity and to make it harder to pay men more money than women for doing substantially similar work. Similarly, as of 2018, California employers cannot use your previous salary to determine how much to pay you now unless you offer the information “voluntarily and without prompting.” That means employers cannot ask you in a job interview how much you currently make.
This move should help to reduce pay disparities in the areas of gender and race, among others. However, if you are applying for work and going for interviews, you may notice that some employers ask for your salary information anyway. Is that a red flag?
The case for no
In some cases, it is not necessarily a red flag. It could be that the business is small and ignorant of the law, although that in itself is somewhat concerning. Still, if everything else seems good and you want to work for the company, you can answer such a question with something like, “State law changed earlier this year so that employers now provide a salary range. If you could tell me yours, I would be happy to let you know if we are thinking along the same lines for my salary.”
The case for yes
Employers are not required per se to provide a salary range in, say, job postings, but they must do so if an applicant makes a reasonable request. If you explain about the change in state law in response to a request for your salary and the employer refuses to give you a salary range, that could indeed be problematic and a red flag.
If the company you are applying to is large and should know better about what the law is, then it is reasonable to see any request for your salary history as a red flag. Even if the specific interviewer is ignorant, it still speaks to this large, well-known company apparently not prioritizing the fact that its hiring managers and recruiters should be up to date on the law.