Did they think I wouldn't notice a ten-dollar difference?
November 19, 2008 10:40 PM   Subscribe

Finally, after months of interviewing (and helpful input from the hivemind) I have been offered a job I really, really want. Here's the problem: the pay that they quoted me today is vastly less than the pay that was advertised. How do I handle this?

Last Friday I was overjoyed to be offered a job that seemed fantastic in every respect, particularly in terms of pay. The PDF of the original posting gives the monthly salary as starting at $4,026.00/month, with a 30-hour work week. Hourly, that should come out to $33.55 per hour.

Today I went in to do all the HR paperwork, and was handed a sheet that said that I would be paid $23.22 per hour. At the time I didn't say anything because I was trying to process a lot of information, and because I wanted to do my own calculations again before asking questions.

I'm incredibly angry. I feel like this job posting was completely misleading. Tomorrow I plan on speaking with the person who actually hired me, but here's the thing I'm not sure of--if employers post a certain salary in the job description, is that the salary that they're obligated to pay you? If it isn't, it seems like businesses could just lure people in with promises of fantastic pay, and then say "oops, oh, sorry we goofed!"

I realize that luck is probably not on my side in this case and that it will probably come down to either taking this job for far less money than I had anticipated or finding something else altogether.

posted by corey flood to Work & Money (16 answers total)
I think HR calculated your hourly pay based on an assumed 40-hour week... $4026/mo. times 12 months divided by 52 weeks divided by 40 hours works out to exactly $23.22/hr. So before you get incredibly angry, take a deep breath and clarify the annual salary ($48,312 seems to be what you're expecting) and the hours you'll be working weekly.
posted by scody at 10:50 PM on November 19, 2008

52 weeks per year / 12 months per year = 4.3 weeks per month
4026/4.3 = $936 per week
936 / 40 hour work week = $23.41

Are you sure it was a 30 hour week? That's really unusual. It sounds to me like your salary actually is $4026/month but you're working a full 40 hours.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:51 PM on November 19, 2008

This is a good test of your people and communication skills!

If you have the PDF I'd bring that in and first inquire with the HR contact that gave you the sheet saying the pay was $23, and ask them to check their numbers since there seems to be a discrepancy.

If they come back with $23, then you go to your hiring manager.

Anger should not enter into this, this is corporate normality from which Scott Adams can draw decades worth of material from.

If you like the work then don't walk away from the job just because of the pay. Also, there are ~4.3 weeks in a month so a 30hr work week with that would be around $31/hr.
posted by troy at 10:53 PM on November 19, 2008

Are you sure the advertised salary wasn't quoted as FTE (Full Time Equivalent)?
posted by mikeand1 at 10:57 PM on November 19, 2008

The job posting was very clear that it's a 30-hour week and a ten-month year (this is for a school district), and says in no uncertain terms "Pay: $4,026.00 - $4,901.00/month + benefits."
I can't find anything in the posting about FTE.

Assuming that I'm starting at the very bottom of the pay scale, my calculations are as follows:


936.28/30 hours per week=31.21/hour

I'd be more than happy to work 40 hours, but there's only so many hours you can make preschoolers work in a day. ;)

Thanks, everyone. I think I'm just frustrated after years of insanity with the last employer.
posted by corey flood at 11:31 PM on November 19, 2008

I knew someone who had a part-time job which was advertised on the basis of the annual salary if it were a full time job instead. I think it is strange, but it's not unheard of.
posted by grouse at 11:33 PM on November 19, 2008

I know someone who works in Australian schools where their pay is spread across the full year, so they don't have to save up for the extended break periods. Also, following on from grouse, it's not uncommon to see ads for work here which say $50k prorata part-time, meaning, whatever proportion of hours they work will be calculated against the $50K that they would have got if they were full time. But you can check it with HR in a friendly manner. No reason why not.
posted by b33j at 12:38 AM on November 20, 2008

scody's calculation would appear to be too accurate for coincidence. Go in and politely clarify the situation.
posted by mandal at 1:49 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Showing the PDF and asking for 'clarification' should either give you an explanation (maybe something changed between the time the PDF went out and the time you were hired?), or begin the process of adjusting things. If that doesn't work, continue up the chain under the assumption that no one's out to screw you. Relax. Congratulations. You got the job.

As a side, employers may have some leeway on paying you the claimed wage - it 'depends on your experience/education/birthdate' or something equally silly. Since it's a school job and presumably a government posting that aims to keep their nose clean, it's possible the goof might be as simple as a grade shift. Again, no one's out to screw you - at best, it's an honest mistake that's easily fixed; at worst you're stuck at $23.22/hr. for the time being. If you'd like to switch jobs I'd be happy to :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 3:29 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

If it's a school district, and you're new to education and how they handle payroll, this might just be a question of semantics. All of the teachers I know have weird accounting systems set up by their districts, to amortize 10 months of salary over 12 months of school year. Thus, even though you won't be working in July-August, you'll still be drawing a paycheck, because every 2 weeks, 1/20th of your annual payroll gets sent to a bank, where it sits in an interest-bearing account and is paid out at 1/24th twice monthly. Some people upthread have run the math, and figured out that your monthly numbers still add up, so I wouldn't get too tangled up over this: you're probably just looking at HR's way of representing a very non-orthodox pay structure, possibly for the benefit of payroll software that can only handle 40-hour weeks and 52-week years.

Whatever you do don't go in guns blazing; if you ask their HR director to explain their accounting system, I bet she'll tell you something very similar to what you just heard here.
posted by Mayor West at 4:47 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

You need to go in and politely ask them to explain the discrepancy. It would be bizarre to advertise a 30 hour a week position with a "40 hour a week monthly-ized salary," but that may be what was done. They may be intending to pay you for 40 hours but only have you on premise for 30 hours. Or there may be some other nicety.

When negotiating, assume the best and carry yourself as though you expect to find all this confusion resolved in your favor very soon now.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:49 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing - don't let your frustration with the old job ruin your chances at the new one. Keep calm, be polite, be firm.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2008

ikkyu2 has it exactly. You need to walk in and be happy and pleasant and peaceful, but also politely assertive.
posted by WCityMike at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2008

Agreeing with ikkyu2 & WCityMike. Don't go in thinking "they are trying to fuck me over;" go in thinking (and frame things as) "there must have been an oversight somewhere along the way that can be easily resolved."
posted by googly at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2008

Thanks, everyone. These are all great answers. Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly that going in there with guns blazing would be a mistake, especially in light of the fact that even if they're paying me less than I thought, they're still paying me far more than I could ever hope to make at my current job.
posted by corey flood at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2008

As others have said, there is a possibility they are paying you exactly what you thought ($4000 per month), it just comes out as a weird hourly rate due to the way they do accounting. You need clarification first; you may not even need to negotiate.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:38 PM on November 20, 2008

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