Pay Equity For California Creatives

In our first article, we discussed the steps California has taken to ensure equal pay for equal work and what managers and executives need to do to stay compliant with these laws in California.

However, in the entertainment industry as well as other venues (even sometimes law firms), equal work can be difficult to define or prove, as highly skilled and creative individuals carve out specialized roles within the industry.

Thankfully, California is one of several states that has passed additional measures to protect the earning potential of all individuals, especially that of women and minorities. In 2017, California passed A.B. 168 which, in short, makes it illegal for potential employers to ask applicants for their salary history.

Can Potential Employers Ask Me About My Current Or Past Salary?

A.B. 168 applies to all public and private employers operating in California. It also applies to agents, recruiters, and headhunters.

If you are recruiting, hiring, or acting as an agent for a company operating in California, you cannot ask an applicant for their salary history. You also cannot ask a third party to acquire the salary history information of an applicant on your behalf.

If you somehow become aware of an applicant’s salary history (and that information was not voluntarily supplied to you by the applicant), you may not use that information to determine whether or not to hire the applicant or what salary you should offer the applicant.

Under A.B. 168, an applicant may choose to share their salary history with you, but the statute specifies that this information must be shared, “voluntarily and without prompting” (Cal. Lab. Code 432.3 (g), (h)).

While you cannot legally ask an applicant for their salary history, A.B. 168 does allow you to ask them about their “salary expectations for the position being applied for” (Cal. Lab. Code 432.3 (i)). This information can be used by the employer to make hiring decisions and set beginning salary ranges.

What Happens If My Employer Violates A.B. 168?

Currently, there is no specific penalty attached to the violation of A.B. 168. It is likely that the issue of penalties will be addressed in the courts, rather than through further legislation.

No employer wants to be the bellwether defendant in a salary history case, so most employers will follow the guidelines above and (hopefully) keep in compliance under California’s laws.

What is most important is knowing that all employees are entitled to equal pay for equal work in California.