Are there unequal pay laws that are not gender, race, or age related?
December 4, 2015 6:53 PM   Subscribe

My employer hired someone that has the same job as me. Same title, same responsibilities. This person has a couple years less experience then me. I also have a wider skill set (I was on the interview committee). This person is the same gender, same race, and about the same age. The employee was able to negotiate a substantially higher salary then I get (posted on public website). I find this insulting and unfair. But, every search I do on unequal pay seems to only address discrimination. Do I have any legal grounds to pressure my employer into paying me the same or more than the new hire?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming you are in the United States (not sure on laws elsewhere), I think your leverage here is basically to apply for and get an outside offer and use that as leverage to pressure your employer. Certainly it is not illegal.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

Nope, totally not illegal. There is no obligation at all for companies to pay similar people similar salaries.
posted by brainmouse at 6:59 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

No. This is not descriminatory, this is someone else being a better negotiator.

I find this insulting and unfair.

Well fix it by negotiating a new salary.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:03 PM on December 4, 2015 [25 favorites]

Nope. At least not in any the countries I have worked. Use it as a base for renegotiating your package-- your boss probably expects it. Sad but true-- easiest way to get your salary is when you are initially hired.
posted by frumiousb at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

What do you mean the salary was posted on a public website? Like public within your organization? Only a small number of organizations that aren't required to do this and sometimes it is so pay arrangements will get extra scrutiny. They may have an interest in ensuring you're paid fairly, even if they aren't legally required to.

Or is it some sort of government job? Sometimes government salaries are required to be similar for similar roles but they probably have enough wiggle room to make the new hire's salary higher.
posted by grouse at 7:09 PM on December 4, 2015

Ask a Manager addresses this question frequently. Here's one of her latest posts about this subject.
posted by MsMolly at 7:38 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like they had stronger negotiating skills than you, which isn't really a crime.
posted by Jubey at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you're in the US and this isn't a a job (public or private sector) where salaries are set* in negotiations between unions and management, and it's not a case of race/sex/other protected category, then nope, not illegal. Doesn't mean it isn't unfair, but it does mean you likely have no legal recourse. (IANAL)

* and even then, there are usually ranges within categories to allow for education, experience, etc.
posted by rtha at 7:55 PM on December 4, 2015

The basic rule in the US is that you cannot discriminate (in employment) on the basis of a protected category. Federally protected categories include race, sex, national origin, pregnancy, age (if over 40), maybe another I'm forgetting. Some states have additional protected categories such as sexual orientation.

Discrimination based on non-protected characteristics is legal. Sometimes treating people differently would be a good idea (for example higher salaries for people who are more experienced or better performers), sometimes it would be a dumb idea (for example higher salaries for people born on a specific day of the week). I agree that what your employer did is insulting and unfair, but that doesn't make it illegal.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:05 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can certainly go in and tell them you will be leaving if they don't do something about it. They are banking on you not calling them on it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:07 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

People shouldn't be giving you grief about this. It's a very common problem and it is a drag. People who have been at company X doing a great job are paid something, and some new person (or people) get hired at higher salaries. It happens all the time and it stinks and it is perfectly legal.

Sometimes you can use the situation to get yourself a raise. Sometimes you have to become the new employee yourself, by moving to another company. But no, it's not discrimination.
posted by alms at 8:08 PM on December 4, 2015 [16 favorites]

Your mention of the salary being posted on a website suggests that you might work in the public sector. I got an equity increase at my public higher-education employer when my salary had fallen behind market rate and therefore behind what people hired after me were getting. If you work someplace with similar wage-setting practices, there may be a salary equity process you can go through. If your salary is an outlier on the low end, it could be brought up in line with others in the same position. But if your colleague's salary is an outlier on the high end, you are unlikely to get any increase.
posted by expialidocious at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2015

FYI to many: invites people to post their job experiences at many companies including interview tips, working conditions, management problems, and *shock,* yes, salaries.

Wage transparency is a good thing. After there were rumors about some new hires, my coworkers and I sat down and compared notes and took our concerns to our manager. She was on our side about it and took it up the ladder. They were able to make some adjustments and my salary went up by $10,000 within 6 months.

Definitely take the problem to your manager with a specific request for improvement.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:06 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely take the problem to your manager with a specific request for improvement.

May I recommend the book, Getting More : How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life by Stuart Diamond? There are many other books, of course, but Diamond's approach discourages aggressiveness and duplicity.
posted by Sir Rinse at 11:15 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

In case this is for an academic job, it's extremely common for people to remain at roughly the salary they were hired at for a few years, until promotion or until they bring in an outside offer. New people make more and more over time.

But this is a reflection of job market realities. The new person, being on the market, had the ability to get other offers at her current rate of pay. You, not being on the market, don't.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:02 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a thing that's guaranteed to happen when salaries are negotiated instead of tied to a fixed job grading system. The demand for certain types of work goes up and down. The supply of people who can do that work goes up and down. We'll assume you did fine negotiating and got what you were worth at that time. The new person got what they're worth now. That's not at all illegal.

So does that mean you're worth now the same as the new person now? Maybe, or maybe there's something different about them. You can always ask for a raise to match, but be aware that most of the bargaining power comes from being willing and able to go elsewhere if you don't get what you want.
posted by ctmf at 11:38 AM on December 5, 2015

Did you ask your employer to match that salary?
posted by mikek at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2015

If you are awesome and deserving of the money, ask for it. Either the company will agree and pay you, or not. If not, don't up and quit, but do start looking for a new gig that pays what you want.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on December 6, 2015

Thank you all for your answers. It's just frustrating to see new hires come in at higher salaries. This isn't the first time. Yes, it's my fault for believing that they do not negotiate (that's what I was told by HR when I was hired). Obviously that was merely an unwritten rule or they changed the policy. My manager has told me that I will soon be promoted to a "senior title" in the next few months. I'll take that opportunity to negotiate a new salary - or start looking elsewhere.
posted by Swede78 at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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