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Many workers are, in fact, getting stiffed—especially Women and PoC.
July 16, 2014 12:37 PM   Subscribe

When the Boss Says, 'Don't Tell Your Coworkers How Much You Get Paid'
posted by yeoz (72 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
The flip-side of this is when a prospective employer asks you how much you made at your last job, thus giving them a way to tailor a salary offer to you that meets your expectations even if it means you'll be vastly underpaid compared to your colleagues.

I have a friend that simply refuses to answer that question in job interviews and tells them exactly why, but he's an excellent developer and not everyone can get away with that kind of frankness.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:48 PM on July 16 [14 favorites]


Planet Money did a show along these lines recently: When Salaries Aren't Secret.
posted by bswinburn at 12:49 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


My first job in the industry, both my manager and my mentor told me that it was against policy to discuss compensation with other employees, and it could be grounds for termination or not being hired. When I mentioned this to the guy who became my REAL mentor, he called bullshit and looked up the relevant regs to prove it to me.

If anyone ever asks me, I'll tell them the same thing Geoff told me. I'm not ever going to bring it up out of the blue, though. A team member who feels unrewarded in any way tends to bring the team down. Comparing monetary compensation is one of the easiest ways to keep score and kill production.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:51 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


...although there is not enough data to draw a direct causal line between pay secrecy and unfair wages, we do know that in the public sector, where wage transparency is far more common, pay tends to be more equal and benefits are more evenly distributed.

Yep, this has been my direct experience as well. Worked one or two summers at a VHS rental store (how quaint) where I was explicitly told not to discuss salary with co-workers because, "That's private information." Turns out the night supervisor who I was working under was making $3 less per hour than me.
posted by ODiV at 12:59 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


As a really minor aside, the NLRA's protection for concerted activity (like discussion of the terms and conditions of employment, like salaries) doesn't apply to employees who are supervisors under the Act; the rule also (maybe, depending) doesn't apply to public sector employees who are not subject to the NLRA but subject to different statutes.

So there are some circumstances out there where employers could prohibit salary talk. It would just be stupid for them to do it, in my opinion.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:04 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


What always amazes me about this is how much the corporate framing has managed to seep downward. I constantly hear people at the lowest echelons of a given company complaining and actively reporting each other to HR for discussing pay rates. Everyone has completely bought into the idea that your pay rate is "private" to you and that discussion of or comparison of pay rates is as bad as sharing your SSN and could somehow hurt you.

I was not previously aware that those rules were straight-up illegal, though.
posted by Scattercat at 1:04 PM on July 16 [31 favorites]


Many people are reluctant to break the illegal policies for fear of reprisal. In right-to-work states this is a realistic fear.

One thing that you can do to address this concern, is to talk about your salary when you are on the way out the door. Did you just give your notice? Start telling your co-workers what you were being paid. While this will very likely burn your bridges, it won't cost you your job, and it may make things better for the remaining employees.
posted by oddman at 1:07 PM on July 16 [23 favorites]


In the nonprofit world not only do all your coworkers know your salary but so does anyone with an internet connection and a reason to care. It's all right there on the publicly available tax returns. It makes raise negotiations pretty easy, and I hate the thought of potentially one day having to work in the real world.
posted by elizardbits at 1:07 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


Side note: Financial disclosure of any kind was understood to be taboo in my family, growing up. I don't defend it, but I also suspect that mine was not the only such family.

Good post.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:09 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


I constantly hear people at the lowest echelons of a given company complaining and actively reporting each other to HR...

Oh man, just got a flashback to the presentation on "workplace ethics" we went through at the call centre I worked at for a year. *shudder*

Did you know that if you overhear a comment about the impending firing of your co-worker who is 6 months pregnant and about to put a down payment on a house, it's unethical for you to share that information with her?

Thanks for setting me straight! I would have had the opposite impulse but for this critical presentation.
posted by ODiV at 1:10 PM on July 16 [34 favorites]


This year I told a recent hire what his raise was, and then said that, as a cultural thing, not many people talked about money here at $WORK. He was certainly welcome to talk to anyone, but it might get him a weird look. He replied that no employer may prohibit any staff from discussing compensation.

I didn't honestly know that, and had never thought much about it before. I mean, when I worked hourly wage jobs in high school and college, we all talked about who got a 25-cent raise. But when he said that, I realized that it makes perfect sense for the company to keep people guessing about what everyone else makes.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:12 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


In the nonprofit world not only do all your coworkers know your salary but so does anyone with an internet connection and a reason to care. It's all right there on the publicly available tax returns. It makes raise negotiations pretty easy, and I hate the thought of potentially one day having to work in the real world.

The salary of a select number of execs, sure. But not everyone's salary. At least not at my old nonprofit.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:13 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


I work at a white-collar job in the private sector, and pretty much always have. I don't think I've ever been explicitly told not to discuss pay. I've never heard anyone complain about other people discussing pay, and I certainly don't fear legal repercussions. But nonetheless, not discussing pay is definitely a norm I've internalized. No one else is discusses it, and managers treat it as private information whenever it comes up (usually at annual performance review), and that's enough to make me feel like it's taboo. I'm guessing that this is something that's spread culturally from workplaces where it's official policy to workplaces where it's not.
posted by baf at 1:15 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


True, I forget that we are a relatively small organization since we all end up on the return.
posted by elizardbits at 1:18 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I encourage any of you who might be in a position to hire temporary employees to let them know what their agency's getting for their work.
posted by asperity at 1:21 PM on July 16 [25 favorites]


I have a friend that simply refuses to answer that question in job interviews and tells them exactly why, but he's an excellent developer and not everyone can get away with that kind of frankness.

I have a friend who lies and gives either a 50-100% increase over reality, or says it's about 10% more than what he really wants to make.

It's never below market rate, it's just that he got totally fucked at his first couple jobs. Any place that got weird wasn't somewhere you wanted to work and was going to underpay you anyways, and his past 4(i think?) jobs just went "ok" and offered him a bit over that.

I realize that doesn't work for everyone, but i thought it was a fun way of turning the tables on a very unfair system and aspect of job hunting. Because, after all, how the fuck are they EVER going to find out that info outside of you telling them? they can't just call the previous employer and ask at least legally, and it's not like they're going to ask for your W-2s unless it's a place you don't want to work.

And, worth noting, similarly he's an excellent developer with an impressive track record. He's been doing it since all he had on his resume was one shaky, shady seeming job from a failed startup at which there was no way to contact a reference because everyone was long gone though.
posted by emptythought at 1:21 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


My boss asked me how much I was making. When I told him he had a reaction and said we were probably at parity. I'm pretty sure my base is higher than his but he probably gets a bigger stock grant. He's not actively tried to undermine me but I wonder if he would be more 'mentoring' if he thought I was making less than him.

At at least one job I made more than my supervisor, who wasn't allowed to know my salary (or, at least, HR wouldn't tell him).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:22 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Wow, thank you for posting this. I always thought these kind of policies were ridiculous and obviously a means of allowing the company to screw people over, but I had no idea it was actually illegal.
posted by Librarypt at 1:32 PM on July 16


I "knew" this was true but didn't, like, know it, right? I've always wanted to talk about pay and how much people earn - line many here, in my second teen job at a buffet, I earned 10c more than my team lead who busted her ass and had worked there 3 years longer than me.
posted by rebent at 1:37 PM on July 16


I've never been explicitly told not to talk about my salary, but I'm generally not the type to talk about how much money I'm making. It's one of those things that I don't want to know, I guess, and that I really don't want to share, even with friends outside of the workplace.

I never really thought about the reasons for that, other than "ick!," but I guess it's a dual pride/envy thing. On some level I guess do think I am better than people I make more money than, but this of course necessitates me feeling less than people that make more than me. The flip side of pride is envy, after all. I'm afraid of making less than you while at the same time thinking that if I don't know how much you (a coworker or professional peer) make I can just assume I make more than or equal to you and skip through my delusional daisies all the way home.

I can, however, see the total advantage to an employer to foster this type of natural (to me, at least) thinking. Total disparity in pay, with no recourse. Bonus that it makes sense to most people. Fleece the sheep and pay the dogs (if they're performers).

I currently work in an office where everyone (who's left anyway) is female besides the boss and me. Frankly, they're harder workers, more dedicated, and better at their jobs than I am, so I'd hope they make more than me.

Anyway, I'm currently making a long, slow climb out of the mentality that how much you earn/have is some kind of tell whatsoever as to the type of person you are. I've met some pretty miserable rich people and some pretty happy broke folks....

To that end, I will announce here that I make 38.5K per year (I just realized it matches my age.. lol), and to be honest, that's about the most I've ever made. I used to complain about how little I made, given what I do (Product Development), but hey, I don't have a college degree. Where else am I gonna go? Besides, you could double my salary, and I wouldn't be happy at my job, I'd just be miserable with better toys. /tangent
posted by Debaser626 at 1:49 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


Because, after all, how the fuck are they EVER going to find out that info outside of you telling them? they can't just call the previous employer and ask at least legally

Can a prospective employer ask a candidate for his or her salary and proof? Yes, that company can ask for it. Is an individual obligated to provide it? No, there is no obligation to provide it.
posted by winna at 1:50 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


This seems like an issue that cries out for international comparative lens. Most countries have way greater coverage of collective bargaining wage setting than the US - does the taboo on talking about salaries exist in places like Belgium or France, with 90% collective bargaining coverage?
posted by yarrow at 2:01 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


My personal favorite moment was when I (female) found out that a new hire (male, age 18 in his first 'real' job after high school) that I was assigned to train was hired at about 30% more than I was making after several years there.....
posted by easily confused at 2:02 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


It may be that not knowing is better than knowing, if you are not in a position to act on the knowledge.

If your employer has a strict "no negotiation" clause or you are unwilling (or unable) to walk away from your job, then knowing that other employees make more than you can cause the workplace to become unpleasant or even toxic with impotent jealousy.
posted by oddman at 2:04 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


these illegal polices are one of the many ways that keep women earning less than men.
posted by nadawi at 2:05 PM on July 16 [44 favorites]


oddman: If your job is that bad on that many levels (bad and unequal pay, no negotiation or hope for improvement), it's probably time to start the process of looking for something else. Not very many people are totally unable to ever leave their job - the only situations I can think of are people who work for the only employer in the area and can't move, or someone with a major medical problem who can't risk having their medical care shaken up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:08 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Because of how we do budgets, salaries end up almost entirely transparent internally -- if 1/12 of your salary is in my budget, I will know your salary and vice versa. The lower level people I supervise don't have direct budget access but it's still easy to find out so anyone who cares knows.

One of the corollaries is that our salary structure is remarkably flat, both in good ways (eg lowest paid is not a tiny fraction of top executive position) and in bad (eg low performers earning the same as high performers).
posted by Dip Flash at 2:09 PM on July 16


I can kind of see how these pay anomalies happen, though. Person A gets hired at some rate of pay. A year later, the market's changed and they have to offer person B more than that. Now person B is making more than person A who's been there longer. Should they have to give person A an equalizing raise, too? What about more, to account for seniority?

That's not to say A and B shouldn't be able to talk. If the market will offer A more, then A's got a bargaining chip. But stability is worth something to some people.

Where I work, I can't go around talking about my employees' pay rates or posting it on the wall. It's considered personal information that they can share if they want to, or not. This is even though all the employees GS grade (though not step within the grade) is public information, as is the pay range for that grade. Step level, OT hours worked, etc. is all considered personal and not for me to advertise.

Which could be how the misconception that it couldn't be talked about got started in the first place?
posted by ctmf at 2:09 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how "private information" translates into "tell HR if anyone talks about it". Health issues are private information, and strictly regulated in professional capacities, but I'm free to talk about my own health to my coworkers or to ask them about theirs. If it's private, that means that I can control who I talk to about it, not that I can't talk about it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:13 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]


I don't understand how "private information" translates into "tell HR if anyone talks about it".

Because often HR or management is explicitly making that translation for you.
posted by ODiV at 2:15 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Which could be how the misconception that it couldn't be talked about got started in the first place?

Well, workplaces vary. I was told on my first day at my current job that disclosing my salary to colleagues could result in disciplinary action against me. I was made to sign a document stating that I understood this.

Although after reading this thread, I googled it, and apparently this isn’t enforceable in English law.
posted by badmoonrising at 2:19 PM on July 16


NLRB doesn't have jurisdiction over large swaths of workers. Most "professional" workers aren't covered. That's why we need pay transparency laws in every state.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:22 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I encourage any of you who might be in a position to hire temporary employees to let them know what their agency's getting for their work.

This will cause a major shitstorm at that agency, and they will never send any workers to your company again. I was told by a former employer what my agency was billing for my services, when I was asking him for references in pursuit of a new contract (I'd worked for a different agency between his contract and the new one.) When I learned they were billing twice what they offered me, my jaw hit the floor. I then called the agency and initiated the aforementioned shitstorm. The manager there kept demanding to know "who told you that?" My answer was "someone I trust." They eventually gave me a much better offer.

So if you're going to tell your temporary help what the agency is billing, either wait till later, or expect a lot of noise.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:30 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Many, many people are astonishingly naive about salary. I'll never forget when a good friend told me how much she made (after a few beers) for her DBA position -- it was literally well under half what she could get in the market. I'm not that worried about people getting underpaid by 10% or whatever, but that was obscene.

My wife's employer (government) simply publishes a list of everyone's exact pay and bonus and that doesn't seem to cause problems.
posted by miyabo at 2:30 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


We should take this many steps further and all get over our pride/envy-based prudery when it comes to talking about money. Because keeping this stuff hush-hush only hurts us. It's not just a matter of co-workers not knowing their true market value. Parents don't tell kids how much they make--and kids therefore have no idea how much they need to make to have the same lifestyle, and thus incomplete information when it comes to career choice. In financial matters, as in most things, more information is preferable to less information. And nowhere is this more true than in the big fundamental question of how much money people earn.
posted by HotToddy at 2:31 PM on July 16 [27 favorites]


So if you're going to tell your temporary help what the agency is billing, either wait till later, or expect a lot of noise.

I am the temporary help, so I value having this information. Not that I have much I can do about it, but I do make sure to let any other temps at my workplace in on the "secret." We've gotta have some clue what our value is out there, even if we can't get anyone to pay us at market rates.

FWIW: For every hour I work, my agency makes 75% of what I do for that hour.
posted by asperity at 2:38 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Personally, I don't want to know how much my coworkers make; I also want to 'just assume I make more than or equal to you and skip through my delusional daisies all the way home' like Debaser626 above.

However, I do think that those of us living comfortably should be more transparent about how much we make outside of the workplace (ie. with family and friends). Now that I'm part of the middle class or better when it comes to family income, I feel as though hiding this information only blocks out people who aren't born middle class.

On preview, what HotToddy said.
posted by kitcat at 2:39 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I've been in the military and a public school teacher—both professions that have a pay scale so I know exactly what I should be making if I get hired. No, "what do you expect to be paid" low-balling BS, just a scale that I can track numbers on.

I think that every business should have the same situation: a pay scale developed that allows both new employees and old where they are and what they can expect in the future.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:39 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


Working for a state government, everyone knows or at least can find out what everyone else is making...for good or worse, most often for the worse.
posted by Atreides at 2:51 PM on July 16


Not very many people are totally unable to ever leave their job - the only situations I can think of are people who work for the only employer in the area and can't move, or someone with a major medical problem who can't risk having their medical care shaken up.

I think you're severely underestimating the number of people stuck in those two scenarios.
posted by headnsouth at 2:53 PM on July 16 [10 favorites]


headnsouth: I think you're severely underestimating the number of people stuck in those two scenarios.

I dunno. I've known a few, but it seems pretty rare. It usually takes a rare combination of being unable to move (usually due to having a partner with a great job or a custody issue) and having a very specific and unusual career choice to be stuck in one job with no alternatives. Hopefully the ACA will make being stuck in one job due to medical insurance less common.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:04 PM on July 16


FWIW: For every hour I work, my agency makes 75% of what I do for that hour.

Back when I was a temp, in 2009, Kelly Services charged (I was told) 40% more than I made.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:09 PM on July 16


I think that every business should have the same situation: a pay scale developed that allows both new employees and old where they are and what they can expect in the future.

That's fine if you're a widget factory and your employees are interchangeable parts, but not if they're skilled labor.

It could be that Bob really just is worth 20% than Tim, because he's 20% better at the job than Tim. (Or maybe 30%, more likely, with the company only giving him part of the additional margin he's making.)

Time-in-grade is not necessarily a good proxy for how productive a given employee is, either. (Hell, sometimes it's a very good model of the inverse. I know I worked like a goddamn dog when I was younger.)

The only jobs where I can see a strict progression ladder working well are jobs where everyone is so closely managed that they either progress at the same rate or get fired, and therefore everyone really is equivalent in terms of performance. Assembly-line manufacturing, maybe. Or piecework jobs, where it's easy to pay everyone based on actual output. But I don't see how you can do it for jobs where there's a qualitative difference between employees' output (and employees themselves). And particularly not in volatile, competitive fields, where your good employees probably have rules set up in Outlook just to delete messages from headhunting firms, and if they feel like they're underpaid or underappreciated are only a few phone calls away from working somewhere else.

Plus, it also doesn't take into account compensation other than cash, which has different levels of utility and value to different people. Someone might stay around at a salary level that might cause their coworkers to immediately ragequit, because they value a particular fringe benefit (work-from-home opportunities, location, good healthplan, whatever) more highly than their coworkers. The priorities of a 20something single person are not the priorities of a married-with-kids late-40something, on the average. The whole reason employers have benefits is because, to some people (one hopes, most of their employees), they're worth more than it would cost to retain them absent the benefit. But they're not equally appealing.

Most large companies do have "pay bands" of some sort, so that everyone has a loose idea of what their career might look like, but they almost always have a significant amount of leeway in them, because you don't want your self-imposed pay structure to cost you your best employees.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:16 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


The flip-side of this is when a prospective employer asks you how much you made at your last job, thus giving them a way to tailor a salary offer to you that meets your expectations even if it means you'll be vastly underpaid compared to your colleagues.

This! And I really hate the online job applications that not only require you to give a salary expectation (thank you, Glassdoor, for help with this!) but also require you to give the salary for every job you've ever had in order to proceed.

Ask a Manager has plenty to say about this.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:41 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


The only jobs where I can see a strict progression ladder working well are jobs where everyone is so closely managed that they either progress at the same rate or get fired, and therefore everyone really is equivalent in terms of performance. Assembly-line manufacturing, maybe. Or piecework jobs, where it's easy to pay everyone based on actual output. But I don't see how you can do it for jobs where there's a qualitative difference between employees' output (and employees themselves). And particularly not in volatile, competitive fields

It all depends on what you're used to. I work in an Australian university, where the work could hardly be considered piecework/assembly-line manufacturing (all jokes aside), and you can see what we're all paid in the top Google result for "UTas Staff Agreement". What "level" you are is more or less public knowledge within the institution, and there's a formal process for achieving promotion to a higher salary band.

The blind spot I see among Americans when it comes to collective bargaining is jarring. How can any employee think it's to their benefit to not know how their compensation stacks up against the people they work with?
posted by Jimbob at 3:58 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


This is one of the reasons I've made it a point to add all of my salaries to Glassdoor for others to see.
posted by Defenestrator at 4:09 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


I (a guy) was once in a senior analyst position, there was a woman in my team who was a junior analyst that technically works for me (responsibility / accountability matrix thing) and she's spent the last 6 years working part time because she's looking after her kids but only just recently moved to full time and we found out she was in fact making more than me (usually senior analyst is a 30% bump in pay). Whatever, I didn't need the money anyway, and maybe this company scores one tiny point against the discrimination of working mothers.

It's about companies wanting to capture economic surplus by having secret wage negotiations. It's as if Coke, was able to set the price of their drink individually based on how much each person was willing to pay by ensuring their transaction was secret: a Mr Coke Addict might get charged $10 because that's what he's willing to pay for it, while the Mr Healthy may only pay $2 because it's just somewhat better than tap water to him and he feels guilty drinking it anyway, and neither of them find out what each other is paying.
posted by xdvesper at 4:19 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


It's as if Coke, was able to set the price of their drink individually based on how much each person was willing to pay by ensuring their transaction was secret:

Exactly. And an efficient market relies on people acting rationally based on having good information. It's no surprise how fast employers cast aside fundamental principles of free market capitalism when it benefits them.
posted by Jimbob at 4:22 PM on July 16 [32 favorites]


It's as if Coke, was able to set the price of their drink individually based on how much each person was willing to pay by ensuring their transaction was secret: a Mr Coke Addict might get charged $10 because that's what he's willing to pay for it, while the Mr Healthy may only pay $2 because it's just somewhat better than tap water to him and he feels guilty drinking it anyway, and neither of them find out what each other is paying.

This is beginning to sound a lot like US healthcare ...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


I've worked for a public agency since 2001. My salary and the salaries of my co-workers are published in the newspaper every year. It is rather freeing. However I am in a union and my salary range is determined through collective bargaining so I have little control over what that range is--though I had more control than most because I was on my union's bargaining team.

I did freelance for a number of years before my current job. That was the best in that I could decide what my time was worth and, if my clients agreed with me (which they did more often than not), then that is what I got paid.

Before that I came from the private sector where the culture of "secret" salaries was well-entrenched.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:45 PM on July 16


It's as if Coke, was able to set the price of their drink individually based on how much each person was willing to pay by ensuring their transaction was secret:
Sounds like Google AdSense.
posted by Walleye at 5:11 PM on July 16


The blind spot I see among Americans when it comes to collective bargaining is jarring. How can any employee think it's to their benefit to not know how their compensation stacks up against the people they work with?
posted by Jimbob

Yeah. This is really weird. I have always lived in a right to work state, where you can be let go anytime for no reason. On the other hand, being born in WWII, I benefited from all the GI help my parents got, from the strong unions in their fields, including a couple of strikes, and from the resultant boom that ran through the first two decades of my life. I'm greatly better off than I would be if I had started life in the '70s, say. I'm quite aware of the fighting, the organizing, the struggle and work my ancesters went through to give me my privileged life, and I know who the enemy was and still is. And yet, when I would take a job for an agreed upon salary, I always felt that I had decided to do the job for that price and that was that. It didn't have anything to do with what other people made. Which is exactly how the bosses in right to work states want you to feel, right? And I know better than that. It's weird.
posted by carping demon at 5:18 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


At the Korean megacorp where I've worked for the past 11 years, it's actually written into the employment contract that you're 'not allowed' to disclose your salary to other employees. I suspect I'm being wildly underpaid in terms of take-home, but there are other compensations, so: shrug, I guess. I have no idea if that's normal or even legal here, but I suspect it is.

On the other hand, more than a decade back when I was working at an IT company in Australia and a new manager was slotted in above me, a more senior guy I knew well and who thought I was a genius, he asked me what I was making and I told him, he did a double take, said 'the hell with that, mate' and my next and subsequent paychecks were 50% higher. That was pretty good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


At the Korean megacorp where I've worked for the past 11 years, it's actually written into the employment contract that you're 'not allowed' to disclose your salary to other employees

There's surely no more effective way to prevent employees getting organised, than to legally prevent them discussing their conditions of employment with each other.
posted by Jimbob at 6:07 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


Not coincidentally, perhaps, there is only the tiniest, barely-ticking-over stub of a union here. Which, given (less so, these days) Korea's history of massive violent labour unrest (and positive changes, generally, resulting) means that the company gets to PR-broadcast peaceful management-labour relations going back for many year.

The company is known for paying lower salaries in general than others in the industry, but at the same time does provide quite excellent benefits and perks (first two kids get their university educations paid for, for example, which isn't something you're likely to see many other places), so it's kind of a wash.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


In the nonprofit world not only do all your coworkers know your salary but so does anyone with an internet connection and a reason to care. It's all right there on the publicly available tax returns. It makes raise negotiations pretty easy, and I hate the thought of potentially one day having to work in the real world.

This is not correct, I've never experienced this at the numerous nonprofits that I have worked for. Some executive compensation is listed on the annual 990 (nonprofit organization tax return):

Part V (Officers, Directors and Key Employees) lists titles and amounts of compensation. A key employee is any person having responsibilities or power similar to those of officers, directors or trustees. Department managers are not considered key employees.
Schedule A (Part I) lists the five highest paid employees that are paid more than $50,000 per year, other than officers, directors or trustees.
National Center for Charitable Statistics

I believe that this might have been raised recently to just those key employees earning more than $100,000. Oh, here is some more current information from The Center for Association Leadership.

Also, the nonprofit world is the real world - and it is insulting to those of us who dedicate our lives to helping others to say otherwise.

I have found that numerous public entities list all their employees salaries - I believe some school districts, states, and counties do this.
posted by fieldtrip at 6:52 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to find out if don't-share-your-salary clauses are enforceable in Canada (Ontario specifically) without any luck. Lots of Google variations have returned little useful information. (So if anybody knows, I'd be glad to hear about it...)

I like to ask people who I suspect are underpaid what their salary is, and then tell them that they should be making more. It's most often women, new to the industry, who have that afraid-to-stand-up-for-themselves look. (I'm usually right that they're being paid way too little. You spend 12 hours a day racing around after a manager translating highly technical information from English into Korean on the fly? Yeah, $25k Cdn in the second most expensive city in the country ain't right.)

I hope that it has helped at least a couple of them speak up for a higher salary.

I was glad when someone did that for me when I was starting out, which is why I do it. Just the thought, "I could ask for more, and it wouldn't be ridiculous," was helpful.
posted by clawsoon at 7:12 PM on July 16


I am doing staff evaluations today having spent three months working out a banded salary scale (horrible because there was such difficulty getting salary info from comparable size groups, although we were lucky to have some share confidentially with us, and then we had to figure out how much was inflated, due to crazy-overseas-funding, due to sexist payments etc - and right in the middle, the basic we peg our starting to got changed, which is all yay garment factory workers getting increases, oh no, my payroll budget is now going up).

But we have been asked by staff not to publish pay scales. I used to, and still do for specific funding budgets, as when you have only one person in that role, it's pretty clear what they're taking home, but the staff overall requested it not be public, and then for it to be within departments only. So now, we have bands based on experience+relevant qualifications, and to make up for where we have similar jobs and we took what we would have been paying in rolling-on performance raises and set it aside to make annual performance-based bonuses. So Mr X and Ms Z can do the same job with the same pay band, but Ms Z knocks it out the park that year, she'll get anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks (we are pretty shoestring) of performance bonus.

I am pretty certain they discuss salaries with each other. I have had pressure to pay women-dominated roles less than male-dominated roles, so the banding helps remove that. There's also just straight out cluelessness about pay - if you are coming from outside the main city or haven't worked much, they will ask for way less. Aggressive salary negotiation does not reflect skill - two of my best staff have never negotiated for higher pay although I would pay them more to keep them, so having banded pay will mean they get a better pay than they expect or would think to ask for.

But I would definitely be able to shave a chunk off my payroll if we didn't use any payscale. I can't because of stupid ethics, but it would be really easy to get half of my staff to accept crap pay and not realise it by using HR and their own limited salary awareness.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:21 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


clawsoon, if it were illegal it would be in the ESA for Ontario. There is no such restriction in Ontario.
posted by saucysault at 7:56 PM on July 16


saucysault: clawsoon, if it were illegal it would be in the ESA for Ontario. There is no such restriction in Ontario.

Common law makes things more complicated. For "just cause" dismissal (i.e. firing someone), this article says that "the Supreme Court of Canada said that a termination for cause must be proportionate to the offence and that each cause must be determined in context."

Would a judge interpret firing someone for sharing salary information "proportionate"? Only on a very grumpy day, I suspect. I haven't found any case law speaking directly to the issue, though.
posted by clawsoon at 8:22 PM on July 16


I've been told not to discuss pay. Or bad things would happen. By my bosses. Who were lawyers. At a law firm.
Good times.
posted by hockeyfan at 9:02 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


In Ontario, sharing someone ELSE's salary might be grounds for dismissal (breach of their confidentiality) but there is no legal requirement to keep your own salary confidential even if you sign a contract that states you cannot tell anyone. Once you and your employer have agreed on a salary/hourly wage they are restricted by the Privacy Act- 21(3)(f) and PIPEDA in releasing that information unless there are specific circumstances or you have given consent, but as it is your own private information you can disclose it to whomever you want. Although, this reminds me of my cousin, who straight-facedly told the judge while under oath on the stand that he could not tell the court his salary because it was "confidential". Meanwhile his ex's lawyer had the print-outs from the Sunshine List of the past few years proving he had been underpaying child support by tens of thousands each year.

The "proportionate to offence" statement? I've been in hearings where an employee who stole from the company did not lose their job due to "mitigating circumstances". Telling a coworker what you make is not even in the ballpark. I am so glad I work under a collective agreement where everyone has the same amount of information. I could never stand to work private again.
posted by saucysault at 9:45 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Not everyone can pull this stunt, but I almost always put a low-ball number in the "desired salary" field. Not ridiculously low, but obviously. I know what I'm worth, and anyone thinking about hiring me knows how much I should be paid. It's a good filter.

1) Anyone who offers under that number ("to start the negotiation" is the usual weasel words they use to justify) can be discounted. They're undoubtedly not paying *anyone* enough to be a first rate organization, the people who took their offer didn't or couldn't find jobs with market level compensation, and compensation will undoubtedly always be a sticking point when trying to bring on new folks for the team. In other words, working at that place will be misery.

2) Anyone who offers at that number? That's where negotiation begins with "so you and I both know that number is the perfect world, perfect job, perfect life number...so let's discuss reality". There's all sorts of ways to make up that difference (lifestyle, benefits, etc.). Might work out, but no heartburn if it doesn't.

3) Anyone who offers market, or at least significantly more than low-ball, has to be seriously considered. It's important to them to attract and keep talent, and saving a short term buck is nothing compared to having the right team. Those are the organizations you want to find and stay with.
posted by kjs3 at 9:48 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Huh. I'm a civil servant, I'm paid by the citizenry, so my salary is public record: SO public that the local newspaper published it on their web site.

Everybody in my office knows what everybody else in the building makes.

The sky did not fall.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:33 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Wow. I've always thought the taboo about discussing one's salary was kind of weird. It never really occurred to me to ask who benefits from such a taboo.
posted by straight at 12:06 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


This is strangely similar to the discussion of "purity" vis a vis women, virginity, marriage, etc we had awhile back. In that case, the only party to benefit from women being "pure" were the "owners" of the women. In this case, the only parties to benefit from all of us keeping our earnings secret are our corporate overlords.
posted by maxwelton at 2:25 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


saucysault: there is no legal requirement to keep your own salary confidential even if you sign a contract that states you cannot tell anyone.

Thanks. That's exactly the information I was looking for. I may have misinterpreted your first post on the subject.

The "proportionate to offence" statement? I've been in hearings where an employee who stole from the company did not lose their job due to "mitigating circumstances".

That sounds like the perfect fodder for an article in the Sun about how everything has gone to hell nowadays.
posted by clawsoon at 4:31 AM on July 17


emptythought: "they can't just call the previous employer and ask at least legally"

Are you sure about this?
posted by pwnguin at 8:59 AM on July 17


I am comfortable discussing money with my colleagues, and interestingly my parents have always been completely transparent about our family finances.

Just because your manager says you're not supposed to be talking about money doesn't mean he/she isn't doing it. I'm a mid-senior manager and I find that it is typical that people at my level care about money and talk about it. I don't typically discuss exact numbers with my immediate colleagues (same dept/same level) but we discuss ranges and what we think other people in the industry are paid. I discuss exact numbers with colleagues at different companies. I also talk to recruiters who are up front about industry averages for my level. As a result I know I am probably underpaid by 10% compared to what I could command in an equivalent job at a new company. I know what I will be aiming for in my next higher level job because I know the range for those jobs. Of course, ranges are large and there is significant personal variance. It's productive to at least feel out these conversations with people whenever you have the opportunity.

I also hire people and know what they say they are paid and what we pay for equivalent positions. Most people who have been at one company or in one job for 5+ years are underpaid, with some exceptions. There is significant variance between payscales at the same title in different companies (also some variance in what level of responsibility a title actually indicates).

My advice is to talk to your colleagues about ranges, at a minimum, and interview for other jobs to see what the market is actually paying. If you really care about money it's important to switch companies at some point in your career, ideally at a more senior level when the new company both has a smaller pool of talent to choose from and has more discretion over individual salaries.
posted by Sockowocky at 10:59 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I had been at my last job - a small but national nonprofit - for fourteen years and was as senior as you could get without being CEO, when it was taken over by a new CEO who brought five staff from her previous organisation with her, made three of our existing staff redundant... and accidentally BCCd several staff members a list of everyone's salaries. Finding out that the lowest paid of the new staff was getting paid about 60% more than me was only one of the reasons I resigned, but it was a major one.
posted by andraste at 1:38 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


This particular blogger who describes the system seems to be against it (and indeed, many of the first hits on Google are from conservatives who bemoan it), but in Norway tax returns are public information, including both income and wealth.
posted by dhens at 6:25 PM on July 17


Whole Foods has open compensation - there's a binder in the store (it sat in the breakroom in the stores I worked in) where you can look up anyone else's compensation. If you're making less than someone in a comparable job, it's totally normal to call them, ask them about their numbers and experience, and then use that as justification for an increase for your own position. Needless to say, having "grown up" there (ages 20-25), when I went elsewhere, I found the lack of transparency both silly and galling.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:59 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


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