Using salary history in Federal jobs

Calls to ban use of salary history reveal deeper issues in federal pay system

A group of Justice Department employees urged the Office of Personnel Management to go a step further in its forthcoming regulations on the use of salary history in the federal hiring and pay-setting processes.

The DOJ Gender Equality Network (DOJ GEN) said OPM should ban agencies from not only the solicitation of, but also any reliance on, job applicants’ past salaries when setting rates of current or future pay.

“If a job applicant or new hire can provide an agency with their past salary as leverage during salary negotiations, and an agency can use it to set pay, then a ban on solicitation will have no effect,” DOJ GEN President Stacey Young said in an email to Federal News Network. “Stopping at solicitation allows job applicants and new hires to get around the ban, and savvy new hires coming from highly paid jobs will take advantage of that.”

The use of salary history perpetuates the gender and racial pay gaps in the federal workforce, according to DOJ GEN, since pay gaps disproportionately affect women and people of color. Although the federal gender and racial pay gaps are smaller than those in the private sector, the employee advocacy group pointed to data from OPM that showed women make 5.9% less than their male colleagues in the federal workforce.

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