How AB 168 Could Hinder Your Next Job Search

Although crafted with good intentions, AB 168 could hinder your next job search. This new California law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. If you’re like most candidates, you have no clue about this law nor do you care…but you should. To demonstrate why, I’m going to give you a glimpse into professional recruiting practices, share a true story about the typical journey in the life of what we call a search project, and explain how AB 168 could hinder your next job search.

Because we have a relationship with a long-time client, we often have conversation about their strategic hiring initiatives. In the course of those conversations, there comes the time when our client is ready to launch a search. And so we do. If it happens to be a new position and we have no prior history, we build a Position Profile: We define the mission of the position and identify direct report structure, responsibilities, competencies required for success, education and experience expectations, results and outcomes for the first year…and, as would be expected, the compensation structure.

The compensation structure is almost always a range. In the Position Profile, we use language to include the client’s benefits package. I’ll pause here to share that once we begin to source candidates, we conduct initial screening to be efficient. This is really to the benefit of everyone involved. I’ve watched many a search consultant get to the end of a search, only to discover that the desired candidate isn’t willing to relocate or doesn’t meet an essential piece of the educational requirements. Or worse yet, the compensation requirements of the candidate and company are too dissimilar.

Mary* had emerged as the leading candidate at ABC company for a senior Project Manager role. In reaching this point, she had been through an initial screening, the in-person agency interview, an in-depth questionnaire, a leadership assessment profile, two on-site, one-on-one interviews, and a panel interview at the company. This represented a significant investment of time on the part of Mary as well as the company and the agency with whom the company was working. Mary had grown to really enjoy getting to know the folks at the company, and they her. This was evolving exactly they way you would hope. Mary could see that this move would be an excellent fit for her and for her career.

When the company reached the decision to make Mary an offer, you might have thought it would be smooth sailing from that point on.  Up to then, conversations about compensation had been very general. Mary knew she was within the posted salary range, and she believed her current benefits were typical. When the offer came in at a salary of only slightly more than what she was currently making and when the company discovered her current benefits were much greater than what they were offering, the entire offer and opportunity fell into question.

This true story actually happened not long ago when assumptions were made and important details went unverified.

Unfortunately, on January 1, 2018, California employers and agents will no longer be free to initiate conversation with candidates about their compensation and benefits history. This is all due to a new law, AB 168, that is rightly aimed at eliminating wage discrimination. Unfortunately, AB 168 could hinder your next job search as well.

According to the new law, as a candidate, you will still be free to initiate conversation with employers and agencies about your salary and benefits history, and you may ask employers to disclose the position’s salary range. This is your choice. Unfortunately, it will be illegal for employers to inform candidates that they can initiate this conversation. For an employer to do this would be legally viewed as their prompting the conversation, which is now illegal and a criminal offense.

Let’s go back to Mary and the significant investment of her time in pursuit of this position. The negotiation of salary and benefits is a dance every career seeker can expect to have with a prospective employer. If Mary had had the conversation about compensation and benefits early on in the process, the company, armed with this important information, would have either decided not to pursue Mary further or to move forward, knowing that their offer would need to meet Mary’s expectations. The company would come to understand that Mary’s expectations were in part based upon her past and current compensation.

In a rational world, we all find this reasoning logical. Apparently, the legislators in the State of California believe they know better about wage negotiations. Hopefully, Mary’s story will shed light on how AB 168 could hinder your next job search, encouraging you to voluntarily initiate a conversation about your past and current compensation and benefits. This will prevent both you and a prospective employer from spending unnecessary time searching for a good fit when the compensation piece of the puzzle just doesn’t match.   

*no real names are used to protect people’s anonymity

Candidates, do we have the most current version of your resume? If not, click here to post it, and visit our job board for professional and technical jobs while you’re at it! You or a friend might be a good fit for one of our open positions. Also, join our Talent Network to receive updates and alerts with new job opportunities that match your interests.

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