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Can Background Checks Verify Salary?

By Michael Klazema on 11/18/2020

One of the key pieces of information that employers want to know during the hiring process is a candidate’s salary history. Hiring managers are in a position of negotiation: they want to know which salary a candidate is likely to accept without much pushback and without declining the job offer and continuing their employment search. While some employers include a ballpark salary when posting a job listing, others prefer to use a candidate’s salary history to decide where to start the wage negotiation.

Contrary to what some employers believe, standard employee background checks do not include salary verification checks. This information won’t show up on a criminal history search—even a work history verification check or reference check often won’t broach the subject of salary history.

In the past, it was more common for employers to share salary information as part of the background check process. Now, pay transparency is disappearing. In several cities and states, laws prohibit or restrict employers from using salary history as a basis for employment. In Alabama, for instance, a statute that went into effect in September 2019 bars employers from taking adverse action against an applicant or employee who refuses to provide salary history. California law bans salary verification during the hiring process.

Most of the statutes concerning salary history passed in the past three or four years, which means that there will likely be more to come.

Even in areas where employers are allowed to weigh salary history as part of the hiring process, neither job seekers nor past employers are legally obligated to provide it. In fact, many employers maintain HR policies that prohibit the disclosure of a past or present employee’s salary history to a third party.

Why are salary verifications such a controversial subject in employee background checks? Critics of salary-related background checks say that they prevent low-paid individuals from progressing up the salary ladder quickly or meaningfully. Employers have their reasons for wishing to know salary history: the information gives them an advantage in salary negotiation, which can help them to net a strong hire at a bargain price.

Critics argue that salary should be based on the job and its responsibilities, not on how much a person made in the past. The fiercest critique of salary history checks is that they perpetuate pay gaps between men and women or between whites and minorities.

At backgroundchecks.com, our employment history verification checks do not incorporate salary history. However, these checks can reveal information that is more relevant to a hiring manager, including job titles, dates of employment, and, sometimes, reason for leaving or eligibility for rehire.

If you have any questions about these checks or the other services that we offer, contact us today.


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