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Legal Ability of a Potential Employer to Verify Salary History

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An individual’s salary is considered to be a part of that individual’s personal, confidential information held by that individual’s company, the IRS, and, most experts stated, every state in the United States.  An individual’s personal information can be made available to specific entities, however, that access is governed and restricted by Federal and state laws.  As this is correct, an individual’s current company cannot and will not give out that individual’s salary information to anyone, especially over the phone.  Most companies know this and would not even waste their time pursuing it that way.  This leaves the interviewing candidate as the sole source.  Can a prospective employer ask a candidate for his or her salary and proof?  Yes, that company can ask for it.  Is an individual obligated to provide it? No, there is no obligation to provide it.  Could the candidate not get the position by not providing this information?  Possibly; it is a possibility.  Does a candidate have any legal recourse around this?  No; no recourse exists.  The candidate can ask why this information is necessary.  Interviewing employers may state that they want to insure that a potential offer could be made if they got so far as to want to do so. Companies do not want to waste their and a candidate’s time coming down to an offer that the candidate will not accept and that the company cannot sweeten.  Some companies want to confirm a candidate’s resume and stated experience, often indicative of salary.  Now it becomes a trust issue.  Does the candidate trust the company and its reasoning for seeking salary information?   If the candidate provided salary history as a part of his or her resume, is it the truth, or did the candidate stretch it?  Many experts recommend to not provide salary history as a part of the resume, but to have it as an addendum to be provided when requested.  Many other experts stated that a prospective employer has no reason to ask for salary history, that those companies want to be able to low-ball the offers they make to prospective candidates.  Several of these specific experts stated that is essential unethical, especially if they say they want to properly weigh the candidate’s experience.  If that were correct, then there would be no need for interviewing, just salary history checking.  Many people who experience this request are all over the scale from not caring to those who will not interview at an employer who asks for salary history.  But, remember, the prospective employer may not just want a candidate’s salary history.  They may want past pay stubs to verify the information.  Many people will keep several years of pay info for tax purposes.  It is one of those things that could likely start to get crazy.  What might be next?  Justifying every fifteen minutes of time reported on one’s time sheet?  Every person has to be able to be comfortable when interviewing.  It could be a ploy to put a candidate a bit on edge, a test to see how the candidate deals with discomfort.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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