Everyone in the Department Knows My Salary

I’m a temp in an admin role. My payment and health benefits come from the temp agency that placed me in the position. 

The agency’s fee is listed as a cost in that spreadsheet, and my entire department can view that information. That sheet is actively used, and I’m the only temp in my department, so it’s clear the amount listed is my weekly payment. I feel completely exposed, and my privacy is violated.

What can I do in this situation? I want that information removed. Isn’t that information protected? Limited to payroll? What are my rights, if any? Please advise on how to proceed.

Any direction will be helpful. 

Culturally, salary information is confidential. Many companies have policies about sharing salary information. (Although, employees can always talk about their own salaries!) But, the reality is there are no federal laws about salary privacy.

If your company wanted to, they could post everyone’s salaries on the internet. And many government jobs do just that. So, legally (unless your state has some protection), there’s nothing you can do. Add to it, while it’s your salary people see, it hits a different budget line than the other employees’ salaries because you are an agency temp. So, from a budgetary stance, it makes perfect sense to have your information on that spreadsheet.

That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Here are some ideas to handle this.

Talk to your local supervisor.

Normally, you should speak to your temp agency manager, but this isn’t really an employment question. It’s a spreadsheet question. You can approach the spreadsheet owner (that I assume is your supervisor) and say, “this makes me really uncomfortable since everyone knows my salary. Can we remove this?”

There’s a chance that the answer is no, but there’s a chance that the answer will be yes. It’s doubtful that anyone besides you has thought about this.

Take a deep breath and remember that no one cares.

Sure, it’s kind of fun to know other people’s salaries, but most people are only concerned about their own pay. If you were making $350,000 a year and your coworkers’ earned $65,000, you can bet there would already be discussions about it. But, chances are, as an administrative temp, you’re earning less than most staff members. And the sad truth is, no one cares.

But, I guess that’s not too sad–because you don’t want them to care. They probably don’t notice.

Consider leaving.

As a temp, you really don’t have any obligation to stay five minutes longer than you want to. You can talk to your temp agency and say this really bothers you, so you’d like to move on. But, unless this job is extremely unpleasant, this isn’t the best idea. Remember, the temp agency cares more about keeping their clients happy than they do about keeping you happy. (I know this is unpleasant, but it’s the reality! They get paid through placements.)

But, if it really bothers you, you’ll want to find a job where you don’t work through a temp agency. While it would still be legal to share your salary far and wide, very few non-governmental jobs do that.

Image by tomfield from Pixabay

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6 thoughts on “Everyone in the Department Knows My Salary

  1. I’m a Federal Government employee, so anyone who knows my name and Agency can look up my salary. At first, that bothered me a little. However, I quickly learned, that as the EHRL said, few people care. I’ve discovered that even close friends at work have never bothered to check out my pay. Many don’t even know that our salaries are public information. If you’re a temp, the main reason to stick it out — even if you’re unsuccessful at getting that info removed from the spreadsheet — is that temporary jobs, frequently, lead to permanent positions. Good luck to you!

  2. It seems odd, even impossible, that the amount the client company is paying the temp agency would be the same as the OP’s salary. Are you sure, OP? It would be much more common for the payment to the agency to be much higher than what you’re actually receiving because of overhead costs and profit for the agency.

    1. I was about to post the same – we have a temp on staff through an agency right now, and we pay a flat fee to the agency that covers the temp’s salary, any benefits they receive and the agency’s fee. Not that we have that fee posted anywhere public, but I think most people would understand that the amount is what we pay the agency, not our temp’s actual wages.

  3. What this person in the article has done appears to have made an assumption that the line on the worksheet cost has put a spotlight on their specific salary without realizing that the company has budgeted an ongoing cost factor for a temp position in the budget. Just because this person is the current temp in place that cost is not highlighting their salary and them specifically. If anything if they are part of the cost evaluation, that’s an opportunity to increase the amount of money designed for the temp position, instead of getting the wrong idea of being in the spotlight.
    A spreadsheet in a workplace is an evaluation of the cost of operations and how the various costs affect the important bottom line which is the profit after subtracting the costs. This complaint is merely making a mountain out of a small mole hill. At least the company is acknowledging that they have an ongoing cost to require temporary services and budgets it into their spreadsheet.

  4. All salary and benefit costs should be transparent by Federal Law. There’s no better way to fight pay discrimination than by making remuneration information public.

  5. Here’s the thing: Everyone in the department knows LW’s salary, but they don’t know anyone else’s. THAT is the problem.

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