Stay Compliant: California Hiring Changes Coming in 2018



Come 2018, two major legislative changes go into effect that dramatically alter your hiring process. To help you, dear reader,  stay compliant, I’ve outlined the essential updates from California’s hiring regulations.


Salary History

As of January 1, 2018, prospective employers can no longer ask about an individual's’ salary or benefits history. You cannot have a box in your application to denote past wages, and you cannot ask in the interview what a person is currently being paid. Additionally, third-party recruiters and reference checkers are also blocked from asking salary-related questions.


Why did California make this change: to refocus the hiring and offer process on an individual’s qualifications, rather than past numbers. This switch forces employers to focus on designing a role and interview process that’s entirely centered on the role itself. If a candidate offers up this information in his or her interview, then that’s completely up to them. But it’s key that potential hires understand they don’t need to divulge that information. To make this point, you can even mention in writing that salary information is not required.


Unfortunately, this law (in my opinion) is very poorly written. There’s an odd section of wiggle room where it comes to a company determining how much they should offer a candidate. That being said, you can provide them with a pay scale of how much a certain position would make in your company and what you can offer based on the position and the candidate’s qualifications. If a salary ranges from 100k-120k, you theoretically can offer someone with fewer qualifications a lower amount than someone with more experience. However, someone might expect they will get paid the higher amount, and then you have a dissatisfied candidate who was primed to accept an offer before the salary was revealed.


There are sneaky ways to get around this, and they’re all in the wording. The question I ask is “What are your minimum salary requirements for taking this role?” or, “What are your salary expectations for taking a role with us?” As of January 1, I no longer will be asking the first question. The word “requirement”  might lead a candidate to think they will be getting paid the amount he or she demands. Expectations are simply that: expectations.


To best navigate these new requirements, I suggest being cautious. Don’t ask these questions if you don’t have to, but do work with reasonable expectations. Focus on the candidate’s qualifications first and then take the hiring process to the next level. If someone really wants to work with you, and you really want to hire that person, salary will work itself out in the end.


Ban the Box

The other new regulation that goes into effect January 1 is the Ban the Box requirement. This change removes the portion of the application that asks about criminal history, including convictions and felonies. You also can no longer ask about criminal history in the interview process; Ban the Box forces companies to resort to background checks with every new employee. This new rule only applies to companies with five or more employees.


Similar to the Salary question change, this law was introduced to even the playing field for people who are capable workers but have some sort of mark on their record. Especially if the crime has nothing to do with the role for which they’re interviewing, this removes any employer bias that might prohibit them from hiring the otherwise qualified candidate. Again, if the candidate wants to talk about it, that’s perfectly fine. But neither the company nor interviewer is allowed to ask or use that information as a basis to decide whether they’ll hire the person. To this end, it’s important to have extremely clear interview processes in place to avoid any mishaps in compliance.


If you’ve found the perfect person, you must present a conditional offer of employment  before you do a background check. Include this in writing, “ We’d like to offer you this position at this salary. This position is conditional based on a background check, and these are the potential disqualifiers.” Don’t be too specific or general, but base the contingency on the role itself. After the offer has been extended you can then dig into their background. For example, if you offer a finance role to someone who is a convicted embezzler, it makes sense to disqualify the person for the job. When a background check rings alarm bells, give the candidate five days to address the issue in writing and additional five days to produce supplemental documents.


These new laws are designed to even the playing field for candidates and signify important changes to companies’ hiring policies. Make sure to stay on top of these regulatory updates, and you’ll stay in the good graces of compliance.




December 14, 2017

Rick Girard

With over 15 years in the “People Business”, Karen Bajanov is a seasoned Human Resource Compliance Specialist. After graduating from Cal State Los Angeles with a degree in Health and Human Services, Karen began her career as Director of HR for a major corporation that had over 500 employees.


While in the corporate environment, Karen realized that small and medium businesses had a real need for human resource solutions in order to grow and protect their business. After 13 years as the Director of Human Resources with a corporate firm, she began KEB Business Consultants. KEB Business Consultants now serves small and medium businesses, across a variety of industries, with all of their human resource, talent management and benefits administration requirements.




Rick Girard is the Founder & CEO of Stride Search.  Rick brings world-class leadership to firms across the nation to meet highly challenging business and talent acquisition objectives. With expertise in creative sourcing, consultative management and winning placement strategies, Rick Girard plants the hiring seeds for his partners’ success.


While not running a School for Gifted Mutants as Professor X, Rick hosts Hire Power Radio Show, a weekly series on OC Talk Radio which serves as an entrepreneur’s resource to solve the most difficult hiring challenges. When not on the air, Rick regularly gives talks and writes valuable content for Hiring Managers and Job Seekers alike. His mission: elevate and sharpen the industry standards of exclusive professional search.


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