oh goody
November 22, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I just learned that I am being dramatically underpaid compared to another team member in my group who has the exact same job function as I do. I am also getting wind of the fact that the scope of my work is about to increase, but with no corresponding title bump or pay raise. Further questions inside.

I just started this job two months ago. I have found that the company significantly misled me in terms of their company culture, and also misled me when it came to the issue of salary parity. I learned the latter because part of my job is to process payments for company health insurance and I therefore have access to everyone's monthly gross salary.

I have a decade's worth of experience, and yet I am being paid a pittance compared to the other person in the department who has a job identical to mine. I mean this literally: there is only one job description for both of our positions, but this person is making $18K a year more than I am, and we have an equivalent level of experience. During the interview process, the HR Director claimed that this company cared about paying people a living wage and about salary parity; this seems to fly in the face of that assertion. This is also an unusually social office compared to other places I have worked, and there are a lot of distractions on a day to day basis; during the interview process I was told by the HR Director that this was a company that cared more about getting work done well and accurately than it did about everyone being each others' best friend; however I am not finding that to be the case. The level of noise in the office is too much for me to handle right now; I have C-PTSD and get easily rattled and distracted with this amount of noise. Had I known this was what I was getting into I would not have accepted this job.

That said, the cultural issues don't bother me as much as the salary parity issue. On top of that, my boss, who is also new to the company, has been making noises about expanding the scope of my work to include an area within my industry that I have experience in, but have no desire to return to. He's already given me extra assignments to this effect, essentially doubling my workload. Simultaneously, I have been told there is no room in the budget for a salary bump to accommodate this extra work, and also they don't want me to go into overtime for budget reasons. I'm essentially being asked to do twice as much work, in two different departments, at a salary that is $18K below what my counterpart makes, and she doesn't have any extra work. I guess I'm just supposed to be grateful for the opportunity to "prove myself" that I should suck this up, despite the fact that losing that OT pay means I can no longer afford the therapy to treat my C-PTSD which means I still have to work in an office environment that stresses me out beyond comprehension.

If this is about "paying dues" that's bullshit. As I mentioned, I have a decade's worth of experience in my industry, doing this kind of work. I'm not some whippersnapper straight out of college. I am well connected in my industry and have a professional reputation that is impeccable. I have existing relationships with major vendors this company uses which has already in two months strengthened the company's relationships with said vendors. And yet, I make the lowest salary of anyone in the office.

I would have negotiated a higher pay rate when I got my job offer, but because the position is non-exempt and I was told I would have unlimited opportunities for OT pay I took it, as the OT would put me more in line with what someone at my level in this market would be making. Now, with no OT, I can barely pay my bills.

This is NOT what I signed up for.

I want to start job hunting again, but wouldn't it look bad to do so after only two months here? That said, I quite literally cannot pay my bills right now on my paltry base salary, and I was really misled as to the company culture, scope of work, and opportunities for OT pay. I think it's justified to look under these circumstances.

Does anyone have any advice for me as to how I should proceed in a job hunt given these circumstances?

posted by thereemix to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It’s fine to look for a new job, you can leave this one off your resume if you’d prefer. Two months is not a big deal. Just start looking, you are very unlikely to be able to renegotiate anything with your current employer until you’ve been there longer, and even then it’s not a sure thing. The best way for a worker to get what they are worth is usually to move to a different employer.
posted by skewed at 7:45 AM on November 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Totally fine to look for a new job. If you chose to keep this one on your resume or talk about it, you can just say that the job was mis-represented when you were hired and ended up being not a good fit.
posted by cgg at 7:52 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, don't mention the fact that you've been looking at other people's salaries (I understand that your access is legitimate, but if you leverage that information obtained in that way for personal reasons, they will have a good excuse to toss you out).
posted by praemunire at 7:54 AM on November 22, 2019 [12 favorites]

Has this person/people been with the company for a long time? Like 10 or 15 years or more? If so just by receiving normal cost of living raises or raises based on performance or longevity can add up to a big difference over a long period of time. It's not uncommon for people to stay in the same position for a really long time and end up with a much larger salary than someone just starting out in the same position.

I'm not saying it's fair but it does happen. You are totally entitled to find the work you want at the pay you want.
posted by Justin Case at 8:13 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

The other person has been with the company for 3 years. Even if she started at my pay rate, I don't think COL increases would get her to a point where she's making $18K more after 3 years, that seems a bit ridiculous to me. If I'm wrong, mea culpa.

Yes, in a job search I wouldn't reveal that I have this salary information.

Is it better to leave this job off my resume or should I add it in and explain that the position was misrepresented to me?
posted by thereemix at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2019

I would not use the word "misrepresented," even if it's true. It's better not to trash talk a former employer at an interview, even if what you're saying is true. I would say something more like "The job didn't prove to be a good fit for such and such reasons."
posted by holborne at 8:30 AM on November 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

At Ask a Manager you are bound to find good advice from Alison on your situation or one similar to it. One more thing:

I would have negotiated a higher pay rate when I got my job offer, but because the position is non-exempt and I was told I would have unlimited opportunities for OT pay I took it ...

If you are offered a job, always negotiate for a higher pay rate regardless of the additional details about the job. You don't lose anything if you get a no, but often you can gain a lot. Hope you find a great new job soon.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:50 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

This other person is not getting a higher salary at you. They probably don't even know what you're paid as it is generally taboo to discuss pay. You don't know what their history is with the company and why they have the salary they do, and frankly it's not your business.

You clearly hate this job. Look for another one. Do more research into the salaries and play up the experience.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:16 AM on November 22, 2019

I get that the other person isn't paid highly at me.

My concern is partly about salary parity but also about the fact that the scope of my job is expanding to double the work, without any compensation for the extra work. Regardless of the other person's history with the company, I don't think it's particularly fair to double my workload without compensating me for that. I'm not saying they need to pay me $18K more, but surely a massive increase in workload should result in something more than $0.
posted by thereemix at 9:23 AM on November 22, 2019

This other person is not getting a higher salary at you. They probably don't even know what you're paid as it is generally taboo to discuss pay. You don't know what their history is with the company and why they have the salary they do, and frankly it's not your business.

I would strongly disagree that it's not the OP's business. It's not something the other employee did wrong, but parity across different people doing the same work is a real issue of justice, and the taboo on sharing salary information just allows employers to screw employees over. The only reason to respect that taboo is that you'll get in trouble for violating it, it has no value of its own.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:04 AM on November 22, 2019 [28 favorites]

Speaking as someone who also once upon a time dealt with HR and had access to people's salaries....She did not "creep documents". She was asked to do something in her regular course of work that gave her access to these salaries as a byproduct.

And OP - what you are going to do with that information is put it out of your mind, like I did when I was in a similar situation. Because technically, you're not supposed to know that.

You've already made up your mind that you want out. Go ahead and look for one - the fact that you're having trouble paying your bills is reason enough for you to look, regardless of what your other coworkers make. Look at it this way - if you found out that the situation were reversed, and your co-worker were actually making LESS than you are, would that knowledge affect the fact that the salary YOU are getting is insufficient? No, it wouldn't.

You already are realizing it's a mismatch. You discovered something you technically weren't supposed to see that underscored that for you. Use that as personal motivation to stay the job hunt course, but otherwise do not bring it up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on November 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

If you basically liked this job and they were just asking you, as a new employee, to pitch in short-term on some work that happened to be within your realm of experience, I would typically advise that you just graciously do it...and then leverage the hell out of this favor to get a substantial raise during the next annual cycle for being such a goddamn great team player. But if they expect you to take any sort of real responsibility that alters the scope of your role, then they need to acknowledge this in your compensation, or find someone else to do it. IF you were content with your existing salary, you could essentially play the "not my job" card if you were okay with quite possibly tanking your chance for a future raise. In your case, however, the infuriating salary parity issue makes this a poor gamble. (Nthing that you didn't "creep" anything by having legit access to salary info, FFS.)

So yeah, start looking and don't feel bad about it. In job interviews, it is super okay to say that the actual scope of the job and compensation was different than your expectations when you were hired, and that you decided it best to just chalk this up to a bad fit and look into moving along in your career. Ah, it's unfortunate and a bit awkward, but it's the right professional decision for you, you wish [soon to be former company] well, nothing personal.

The thing that you don't want anyone to infer is that you felt entitled to a raise after just two months because you were asked to do a little extra work. I'm not saying this is the situation. I'm saying that since the shitty salary parity context is off-limits in an interview, you should just rehearse several judiciously-worded explanations, just in case you get thrown off-guard by a question.
posted by desuetude at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

ok, I don't want to threadsit but fluttering hellfire, I did NOT creep documents to get the information. I am responsible for processing payments to our health insurance provider, and part of that process involves getting a detailed breakdown from payroll and HR of each employee's deductions as a percentage of their monthly gross salary. I didn't break into confidential files or go snooping around pay stubs. I have done this particular job function at past companies I've worked for and access to this information is always given to the person in my role. So, yes, it WAS voluntarily shared, by the colleagues I work with to keep our premium payments up do date.

I really don't appreciate the insinuation that I did something I shouldn't have done because I have this information - I HAVE to have this information in order to process the payments so none of our employees lose their health insurance due to a data entry error that could have been easily avoided. Again, this is not unusual for people who do my kind of job function, regardless of industry.

Not sure why, but your tone in answering this question both times you have chimed in has been pretty snide and it's clear that you are looking for ways to interpret my question in completely bad faith. I'm trying to figure out my options because this job isn't what I signed up for and I'm trying to take care of myself because C-PTSD is an absolute bitch to live with and working in a noisy environment and making so little money that I'm not able to pay for treatment I desperately need is certainly not helping. I really don't need sneering and accusations of unethical behavior from someone who has no idea what my job actually entails.

Thanks to everyone else for your advice. I'm leaving this job off my resume, and I've already lined up an interview for next week.
posted by thereemix at 12:56 PM on November 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

The whole thing about salary pay being Top Secret is bullshit. You could have had a friendly conversation with your colleague discussing pay in your industry and told each other ballpark figures about your pay equals. You could have directly told each other your salaries. ALL TOTALLY OKAY. The only person who loses is your employer who surprise, surprise, wants you not to discuss salaries.

Ask yourself if you were getting paid $18-20K more, would you stay in the job? Have a really good night's sleep, go read a lot of askamanager about how to ask for a raise and then talk to your manager about your new responsibilities and say well, I'm excited to take this on with an additional adjustment in my salary for the expanded role and name the figure. If they say no, shrug and say thanks and go back to your regular responsibilities and interview away.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:53 PM on November 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

The whole thing about salary pay being Top Secret is bullshit.

Accurate. I can log into Workday right now and see my colleagues’ salaries.

I have been in your shoes and it was because a recruiter I worked with for some reason decided he wanted to low ball me rather than offer me what the company paid for work which I assessed (apparently incorrectly) at market value. He didn’t need to, as he didn’t get any kickback for it, but he did anyway? I was livid when I found out what my colleagues were earning, but chalked it up to a shitty recruiter and moved to another job where I now actually earn above market value for my position. I don’t think you have any recourse other than to similarly move on.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2019

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