Talking About How Much You Make

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

President Obama has signed an executive order prohibiting government contractors from punishing workers who discuss or compare their salaries. The idea is to promote equal pay by promoting transparency. Have you ever discussed your salary with a co-worker? How did it go and what did you learn? If you were surprised, did you do anything about it? Call in and tell us about what happened when you talked about how much you make. 212-433-WNYC 212-433-9692 

Update: The Senate's Paycheck Fairness Act which would have imposed the same requirement on private employers was blocked by Republicans today. 

Comments [26]

Cathy from NY

I was hired as an editor and then promoted to department head, at which point I got to see what everyone in my department made. The variations were staggering, and men were paid approximately 30% more than were the women. And the women worked harder and were better at their jobs. The women who had worked for this company for many years were the lowest paid. I worked very hard to increase the salaries. I also began a period of "job hopping," seeing that strategy as the best way to get pay increases. Later, to ensure that the people who worked for me were well paid, I set up job descriptions that were outside of the standard formats for the company so that there were no comparisons to justify the lower wages that others got. We were incredibly productive as a group, with higher profit margins than any other units. Pay people what they're worth, and they'll do amazing jobs!

Apr. 09 2014 04:43 PM

Here's my story: I was working at a new job in a civil service position. My salary was based on my 3 masters' degrees plus several decades of professional work. Since my pay was direct deposited, I rarely opened the envelope with the check stub. However, I did open one & discovered that I received a male colleague's stub in error. I briefly noted he was making less than me - due to one master's degree and less than half of my years of work experience. I naively went to the payroll clerk who notified the other employee and envelopes were exchanged. Several months later my contract was not renewed because, I was told, "You are too expensive." I might add that I never received any evaluations at all, presumably, I thought, because the supervisor, a woman, was happy with my work. Looking back, I recall the "writing on the wall" that I ignored - one month the board's minutes were posted about a budget review, another male staffer made a comment about what it was like to be "out on the streets;" the male staffer who I exchanged pay stubs with came up with a title for the summer reading club I was running - "Bon Voyage With a Book." So women, honesty may not be the best policy! Sad to say, however, this male staffer passed away within a year and my condolences to his family and the workplace that paid out on his insurance policy.

Apr. 09 2014 03:00 PM

Hey Brock: my anecdotal experience has also taken place in diverse environments over the last 15 years, and it's just the opposite of yours.

In my field, the culture was actually a bit more supportive in the '90s and early 2000s because most of the men in my field were, by default, nontraditional. When the "norms" flooded my workplaces, they brought their provincial attitudes with them.

Apr. 09 2014 12:01 PM

Anybody remember when copies of LT's weekly paycheck ($87,000+) was being passed around back in the 80's? That is part of the reason why CEO compensation has disconnected from the pay for the rest of their corporate structure. Lawrence Taylor (or any other first-tier athlete) is worth more to the team than a CEO is to his company. LT could not easily be replaced, Dimon, Blankfeld, or any other CEO has a #2 in the wings who would do the job for less money...Shareholders are putting up with robbery.

Apr. 09 2014 11:57 AM
emjayay from Brooklyn

In government, at least federal and I suspect other levels, everyone knows more or less what everyone else is paid. Your pay grade is not a secret. The steps in the pay grade are based on time, so not hard to roughly figure out if anyone cares.

This only leads to more equality and sense of fairness. I don't understand being forced to keep little job related secrets in a workplace. Everyone should know what there is to know.

Apr. 09 2014 11:56 AM
BK from Hoboken

This topic is often oversimplified. Headlines I read about how women still make 75 cents for every dollar a man works leaves out that this is not in an apples to apples same job comparison, just across the economy as a whole. Since women work in more low paying retail and healthcare jobs than men, it pulls down their average income.
That said, I am all for women making the same as a man in the same position with the same work history. And I can't see how any employer can legally prevent workers from discussing their pay. That said however, who really wants to talk about their pay with coworkers?!

Apr. 09 2014 11:56 AM
Leo A from NJ

I agree with this not being a male vs female argument. Shouldn't continuous work in the same company warrant a hire salary for loyalty?

Apr. 09 2014 11:56 AM
JL from NYC

The website the previous caller was referring to is actually (not glassceiling). Excellent resource for salary and company info!

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM
Jen from NYC

I'm out of the job market now after 30+ years of experience, but if I could go back in time I would be MUCH more cognizant of my pay level and would be much more (gently) aggressive in pursuing higher pay.

Maybe we (women and women's groups) should start teaching negotiating skills to young women entering the job market. If we all start seeking more money and get more comfortable and better at doing so, at least some of the gender imbalance would disappear.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM

1. When I was working for a Swiss financial services company in NJ (ahem) and paid on an hourly basis, I discovered I was being paid less than at least one gentleman doing the same work. I confronted the employer. They were FURIOUS that we discussed what we were earning. I was better qualified educationally than the other folks. They hemmed and hawed before providing me the equivalent salary.

2. It is crucial that any the concept of "joint employment" be expressed in these laws, otherwise employers will be able to skirt this issue by outsourcing jobs to temp agencies.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM
rezel from manhattan

what could be more sacrosanct than an academic pay scale, union approved? who needed to discuss salaries guys?

but guys are recognized as head of households unlike the women and enjoy extra paid assignments. and guys moved up the academic ladder more quickly.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM
paulb from Brooklyn

My company also has a rule against disclosing wages, but looking over articles on the web on this topic, that appears to be illegal. The company can prohibit discussions in the workplace when the parties to the conversation are on company time. But, for example, a discussion in the break room during lunchtime would be legal, and there is no enforceable prohibition against a conversation off company property. Of course, the company could still fire us and say, ha, see you in court.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM

The website is called not GlassCeiling.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM

I believe the caller was referring to GlassDoor not GlassCeiling.

Apr. 09 2014 11:55 AM
Brock from Manhattan

Would the argument be different if it was "equal pay for equal effort" rather than "equal pay for equal job?"

Apr. 09 2014 11:53 AM

AAAGHHH there's a very special place in Hell for those who say "but he has a family to support!" Also irritating is when mediocre dudes receive the promotion (and presumably raise) because they're married or engaged.

Apr. 09 2014 11:52 AM
edneff from Oak Ridge, NJ

As a member of a union, I don't have to wonder what my coworkers make. We have a contract. Too bad more workers in the U.S. don't. It would be a much better and stronger country.

Apr. 09 2014 11:50 AM

Why is this being presented as male vs female?? Something like this happened in a company where a female supervisor found out her female colleague's salary and proceeded to drive her out of the department in every way she could (especially trying to embarrass her colleague at meetings or to minimize the results of her colleague's contributions).

Revealing these individual salaries is wrong. They should just provide a distribution of salaries (not just mean/median).

Apr. 09 2014 11:49 AM
SW from CT

My company forbids me from disclosing salaries information. I've always felt that in addition to be a tactic, in their favor, during salary negotiations, its also a way to pay people unequally...

Apr. 09 2014 11:48 AM
Lena from Brooklyn

At a previous job, I discovered through conversation that all the male employees were being paid at least $10/hour more than the female employees, including the women with seniority! I confronted my boss (a woman) to her great shock; she denied the fact, then claimed she'd have to fire some of the women because she couldn't afford to pay us as much. It was all bluster. She ended up giving all the women a $5 raise. We were still being paid less than the men, but it was a small victory!

Apr. 09 2014 11:48 AM
paulb from Brooklyn

Does the bumper sticker slogan Equal pay for equal work include time on the job? Because that's also key.

Apr. 09 2014 11:48 AM
Barb from NYC

The fact that women are DISCRIMINATED against with lower wages (especially since so many are single heads of household) in our supposed democracy is an OUTRAGE.

Is it too crazy to want a law outlawing discrimination in wages on the basis of gender?

Maybe we should consider again going after a Constitutional amendment outlawing discrimination based on gender. Why not?

Apr. 09 2014 11:47 AM
Brock from Manhattan

Since women consistently work fewer hours, take more sick time, and are not as available for travel as men, I hope they also include an hourly summary along with their reports. For 30 years I have worked in diverse environments, yet women consistently take more sick time, are less likely to work overtime and are less willing to travel. This of course is also available in the Burea of Labor reporting but feminists consistently leave this info out. I'm glad employee compensation is going to see some sunlight, I'm fairly certain the results wont be embraced by the propaganda toting feminists.

Apr. 09 2014 11:46 AM
sw from CT

Currently, my company prohibits us from discussing salaries. I've always felt that this was a way for a company to pay people unequally, and to give the company an edge during salary negotiations.

Apr. 09 2014 11:46 AM

more polpulism

Apr. 09 2014 11:45 AM

Salary data for all management level employees was released to the web one year for Prudential. There was no end to the fun that caused!!!

BL demurs in talking about his salary own on-the-air even though it is a matter of public record.

Any female wondering if she has parity in her own office can use other sources of data to get a clue. Municipal and public employees salaries are available online.

The best advice on this comes from Mr. Bad - If you want a raise, grow a pair and ask but have the work history to justify it.

Apr. 09 2014 11:12 AM

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