What If It Were Illegal to Keep Your Co-Worker’s Salary Secret?

One of the things that I loved about being an HR data person was knowing how much money everyone else made. My very first HR job was as an HR admin for the head of Compensation, and I got to run reports for her, which meant I knew everyone’s salaries, including hers and my co-workers (who, incidentally, were much higher level than I was and had no idea about each other’s salaries).

For various reasons, I’ve always needed full access to compensation information (in one job, I even got to approve my boss’s raise, so I knew her raise before she did), and I loved it. For two reasons. One, I’m inherently nosy. (Oh, stop being so self-righteous, you are too.) But the other reason was I always knew my salary was fair.

I never had to fret, “was Jane being paid more than I was, even though I worked harder? Was John hired in at a higher rate, even though we are supposed to be the same level?” It was awesome. I knew my pay was fair.

Most of the rest of you aren’t that lucky. And it’s that lack of knowledge that allows discriminatory or just plain dumb salary problems to continue. What you don’t know, you can’t sue about, right?

To keep reading, click here: What If It Were Illegal to Keep Your Co-Worker’s Salary Secret?

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9 thoughts on “What If It Were Illegal to Keep Your Co-Worker’s Salary Secret?

  1. This is good in theory, but my org has figured out a way to wiggle around salary comparisons. Everyone earns comparable and market rate salaries, but then they pile on bonuses. These comparisons don’t look at total compensation, and you can easily double a manager’s income by adding 3 bonuses at the end of the year. Who get the bonus? How many bonuses? Good luck finding out.

      1. Transparency should be the law for everyone:
        (1) US federal securities laws already require disclosure about compensation paid to CEOs, CFOs and certain other high-ranking executive officers, including bonuses.
        (2) As grannybunny notes, civil servant salaries are publicly available.
        (3) In Norway all income tax returns are public; newspapers publish lists of the income and taxes paid by politicians!

  2. I’m a Federal employee, so my salary — along with those of the vast majority of Feds — is already public knowledge. Anyone knowing my name or job title can look up my basic salary on publicly-accessible websites. As pointed out by another commenter, that information does not include overtime, bonuses, deferred compensation, relocation benefits or anything else not considered basic salary. Anyone can request my name, job title, work location and salary from my Agency, under the Freedom of Information Act. For highly-placed officers in the Agency — of which I am not one — information is also regularly released about their bonuses, deferred compensation, etc. However, none of this transparency prevents wage discrimination. It just makes it easier to discover. Therefore, I would not immunize employers from wage discrimination suits simply because they published salary information. What you would be giving with one hand, you would be taking away with the other.

    1. I have to agree with Grannybunny , the power to give a wage still lies solely with the employers, who control labor costs. Anything that they can to relabel that cost off the profit line keeps the shareholders happy. Ever wonder why those CEO’s walk away from a failing company with so much in their pockets and the low level employees only get what is required by the state where employed and some states who have right to work laws allow nothing.
      If we want transparency in wages we need to ask our elected officials to do this by creating legislation for it and it doesn’t happen spontaneously.

      1. I agree except for one thing. We cannot just ask our elected officials for it. We need to tell them to do it.

  3. I rely on salary-dot-com, glassdoor, and similar sites to gauge where my salary falls in the local range.

  4. I know EHRL’s philosophy (and others) is in direct contrast to mine and I respect it but here goes…

    It all sounds fine in theory but the reality is that people are nit-picky, competitive and generally petty when it comes to their compensation. Would it force employers to be more fair? Maybe. But how about the rampant misconceptions that Suzy is a lazy worker but makes as much as Sally? It’s a headache waiting to happen.

    I also don’t care that public employees have their salaries posted. That’s my tax dollars and I have a right to know where it goes. A private company doesn’t and shouldn’t have that obligation. Especially by force of law. A public company is a different story too. As for other countries that post tax returns, again don’t care. Bandwagon logical fallacy there.

    If you don’t like what you make, find somewhere else to go. Do your research and determine your value. There are plenty of sites out there that do a decent job in compiling this data.

    Oh and the dirty little secret is that many employees talk about their pay these days anyway. In my company we make that assumption and make sure pay is aligned and appropriate to the position and the value of the employee. Yea, we’re probably the exception. I 100% agree that employees should be allowed to blab about their compensation should they choose to. It’s their information and they have the right to do with it what they want – unless prevented by a contract.

    That probably sounded a bit angry and confrontational but I’m really not worked up about it. It’s an important subject that warrants careful thought.

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