How salary transparency could impact the job hunt in Washington state

Limitations of the new law

Beckett said the new rule is overly controlling of businesses, which he claims often don’t know what salary or benefits they should offer until they start vetting a pool of applicants.

The law could also discourage companies based outside of the state from hiring Washington workers for remote jobs because they don’t want to deal with the salary posting requirements, Beckett said. He pointed to a comparable Colorado law implemented early last year.

A June advisory from the Society for Human Resource Management, the national certifying and networking organization of HR professionals, stated that some employers are likely excluding Colorado applicants as a way of skirting the law, although it didn’t point to any specific data.

Anecdotally, some job postings for remote roles expressly prohibit any work from being done in Colorado. Coloradoexcluded.com, an online database that tracks which businesses have stated that restriction outright on job postings, lists 211 companies. The group includes eBay, Century 21 and the University of Phoenix.

But the Washington Legislature isn’t the only government body following in Colorado’s footsteps. New York City, home to headquarters of many major companies, will see a similar job posting law implemented in May. Lawmakers in California and New York state are also working on comparable legislation.

According to Randall, it’s too soon to know the full scope of how Colorado workers have been affected by the new pay transparency law, which has been in place for a little over a year.

“I’m not sure that it’s been around long enough to have those lessons be really well vetted,” Randall said.

But the new Washington law will have limitations, she said. For example, it doesn’t include any details on what constitutes a salary range.

Could a company theoretically advertise a position that pays between $15 and $1 million per hour?

“You could technically be in compliance with the law,” Randall said. But, she added, “that would give applicants information about the employer, if they chose to post that.”

Beckett also said he’s concerned that publicly posting salary data could ultimately harm departing employees in their search for a new role, especially if it indicates a worker is capable of living on less.

“The thing that bothered some of the people I represent is this inadvertently disclosing information that maybe somebody considers proprietary. Someone’s who’s leaving their old job and looking for a new job may not find it helpful to have their old salary out there,” Beckett said.