Federal agencies would not be able to consider a job applicant’s salary history when setting pay for certain offers of employment under new regulations proposed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The proposed rules announced May 10 would prohibit the use of salary history in setting pay for new federal employees hired under the government’s “General Schedule” pay system, which is the predominant pay scale within the U.S. Civil Service. The use of salary history also would be prohibited in setting pay for new employees hired under the government’s “Prevailing Rate” pay system, as well as those hired under the pay systems for administrative law and administrative appeals judges.
“These proposed regulations are a major step forward that will help make the federal government a national leader in pay equity,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement. “Relying on a candidate’s previous salary history can exacerbate preexisting inequality and disproportionally impact women and workers of color.”
As explained in a March 2023 issue brief released by the U.S. Department of Labor, reliance on an employee’s prior salary can exacerbate pay disparities for any worker who has faced discrimination in the labor market, while research shows that implementing salary history bans can narrow the gender wage gap. Research also shows salary history bans increase wages and reduce pay disparities between workers of color and white workers.
Currently, 21 states have laws or executive orders that address employers’ use of an applicant’s salary history, including directives that, like OPM’s proposed regulations, prohibit employers from relying on a job applicant’s salary history in setting pay.
According to the OPM, the gender pay gap for the federal government’s civilian workforce in 2022 was 5.6 percent, an improvement from 5.9 percent in 2021. The federal gender pay gap is far smaller than the national gender pay gap, which sits at 16 percent. From 1992 to 2022, the pay gap for the federal workforce has decreased from 24.5 percent to the current 5.6 percent. In addition, in recent years women in the Senior Executive Service, the senior-most leadership ranks of the federal government, are paid approximately the same as their male counterparts.
The OPM’s proposals were published in the Federal Register on May 11. The public comment period closes on June 12.