June 15, 2017: SACRAMENTO BUSINESS JOURNAL - Bill that could impact your next job interview passes committee

June 16, 2017

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By Chelsea Shannon

A bill that would prevent California employers from asking job applicants about their salary history took another step forward Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 168 passed through the State Senate's Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on a 4-to-1 vote. Democratic Sens. Steven Bradford of Gardena, Toni G. Atkins of San Diego, Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and Holly J. Mitchell of Los Angeles voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, voted against.

This bill would apply to all employers, including state and local government.

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, wrote AB 168 and says it would protect against wage discrimination. Proponents of the bill think it would make employers more likely to offer a salary based on market value, without discriminating based on race or gender.

“Is it appropriate to determine the value of the work based on what I was paid to do at another job, another time? There is no logic in that,” said Mitchell.

Aileen Rizo, a Fresno mathematician who supports the bill, said that she has has worked in her field for 20 years, has two master’s degrees and makes thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts, despite seniority.

“I couldn’t educate myself out of being paid less. I couldn’t get more experience or be in the job market longer to break the cycle,” Rizo said. “Because low wages will follow you wherever you go as long as someone keeps asking you how much you were paid.”

Rizo said she is currently in litigation against the Fresno County Office of Education that has gone on for almost three years and has cost her thousands of dollars.

Jennifer Barrera, senior policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, said the bill would complicate the hiring process since employers could not make their offer more appealing for an applicant based on previous salary.

Sen. Stone said that the bill would open businesses, especially small businesses, to harmful, frivolous lawsuits.

Sen. Atkins disagreed. ”Inequity and unfairness actually creates lawsuits that wouldn't need to happen if there was addressing the issue systematically,” she said.

The Labor and Industrial Relations Committee was the first stop for the bill after passing through the Assembly last month. The bill may proceed to the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, but it has not been referred yet. If there is no opposition in the Public Employment and Retirement Committee or it is not referred, the bill will go to Senate Appropriations Committee with the next step being the Senate floor.