Jobseekers have edge with pay transparency

Jobseekers have edge with pay transparency

The days when employers could force workers to keep quiet about their paychecks vanished nearly 90 years ago with the landmark National Labor Relations Act.

Today, we’re seeing a massive and rapid shift in a related area. After January, about 1-in-5 workers in the U.S. will be covered by some sort of pay transparency law. Most require employers to include pay ranges or levels in job ads or when a job applicant asks. That’s a huge benefit to job candidates in those areas, who will now be able to screen out postings that don’t meet their criteria.

The arc of employment and HR practices is definitely bending toward transparency. Changes are taking place in California, Washington and Rhode Island in the new year. The Big Apple has such a law, as does Colorado, the pioneer. And similar laws have been proposed in Massachusetts, South Carolina and New York State.

Ohio is part of the movement too. In Cincinnati and Toledo, employers have to share the pay scale after an offer has been made, if the applicant asks.

An overwhelming majority of workers — 79% — want pay transparency in their jobs. Making salary ranges or bands public also will help reduce the gender, race and ethnicity pay gaps by giving workers tools and knowledge to better negotiate.

I’ve worked with many resume clients who don’t even consider job postings that lack salary information. It’s a waste of their time to apply for a job that pays below what they require, so they simply don’t bother. That makes financial sense for them: Why invest time in an application that won’t pan out?

As they usually do, the new laws in California and New York City, with their large populations and business centers, will force some national companies to change their practices across the country. Employers will have to have tough conversations with their workers about salary bands, past practices and pay equity. There’s no getting around that.

Companies that try to skip internal strife in the short term by avoiding debates over pay equity will miss out on some of the best candidates in the long run, and their reputations will suffer.

Absent some sort of national transparency law, which is unlikely in the next few years, we will see a state-by-state divide based on so-called business friendliness.

Economic development and workforce leaders should embrace pay transparency alongside workers. It is a tool that will help attract some of the best and brightest — and anyone who wants their time respected. States that adopt such laws will see over time an organic influx of employees by virtue of the fact they know what they’re getting when they apply. That’s a good thing for everyone in this equation.

Career Stories columnist Dan Shortridge is a nationally certified resume writer, marketing consultant and author. Contact him and submit questions for future columns at

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