Can A Company Demand To See My Old Pay Stubs?
It’s perfectly legal for a potential employer to ask for your salary history. However, you are not required to provide the documentation they’re asking for—as long as you decline before you become an employee. Read on for an explanation about this important distinction.
Question: Are you familiar with this contingency being placed on a job offer?
“… subject to receipt of documentation of your current salary.” I just went through a grueling interview process. When they asked about my current salary, we agreed that it was confidential, and I did not tell them what it is. (I read your book, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” which helped me get a great offer.) Now this offer letter makes the whole deal contingent on my salary history. I don’t want to turn over my old pay stubs. Is this even legal? How should I handle it? Thanks.
Nick’s Advice: That clause is unbelievably common in job offers. Companies do it all the time. It’s their way of making sure they’re basing their hiring decisions on the judgments of their competitors. Brilliant, huh? Many will argue with me, but I believe the practice is utterly foolish, and I think your past salary is no one’s business.
I’m not a lawyer, but according to my HR sources, it’s perfectly legal for them to ask for your salary history. However, you are not required to provide the documentation they’re asking for—as long as you decline before you become an employee. (Read on for an explanation about this important distinction.) Of course, it could cost you the offer, but the decision is yours.
In this case, I’ll make a guess: It was the hiring manager who agreed to leave your current salary off the table, but HR prepared the offer letter and is following company procedure. Keep in mind that HR is not hiring you; a manager is hiring you. I’d call the manager—not HR—to discuss this calmly.
Here’s how to improve your chances of getting that condition removed from the offer. Don’t make that call to the hiring manager unless and until you’re ready to accept the offer. Otherwise, why bother, right? I think the hiring manager is more likely to delete the condition if you first state that you want to accept the offer and that you’re eager to get to work—if only the condition is removed, as already agreed. I think bringing this up to HR will get you nowhere.
A caution to other readers: If you try to skate past such an offer clause and accept a job, and they ask you for an old pay stub once you’re on board, you could wind up unemployed. Once you’re an employee and decline to provide a pay stub, you’d be violating company policy, and that’s probably grounds for terminating you. As long as they can show they ask everyone for stubs and they’re not discriminating against you specifically, they can ask. (This is why I suggest any job applicant request a copy of a company’s employee manual before accepting an offer. Once you join up, you’re subject to all the rules in it. See “The Job Offer: Did I Really Agree To That?”)
There’s another angle on this salary history problem. Never fudge your salary history during interviews. If—against my advice—you decide to divulge it, be honest. If that stub doesn’t match what you told them in the interview, you’re guilty of misrepresenting yourself, and your clever embellishment is likely to get you fired on day one.
Now for the downside risk. I’d call that manager before you accept the offer, but please keep in mind that if you ask that the wording be changed, they might very well rescind the offer altogether. That would make a liar out of the employer, but go fight city hall. You must decide what’s more important to you and what this would signal about the employer’s integrity.
It’s worth noting that this topic has generated more Ask The Headhunter reader mail than any other—and most people who respond wholeheartedly support salary confidentiality. More important, the majority of readers who have declined to disclose salary history say the employer backed off on the demand.
I wish you the best in dealing with this thorny issue.