Compensation Questions
November 30, 2007 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Can an employer reveal your compensation, benefits, etc. to 3rd parties? Alternately, is there any way for a 3rd party that you do not directly authorize find out this information through any channels?

I'm considering a job offer where I overstated my compensation slightly in order to raise the rate they would be willing to pay me since I would fall at the bottom of a very large spread of potential income for this position. Is there any way for them to confirm what I currently make? I know you aren't lawyers or IRS agents, but any input would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the legality, as IANAL and all that, and at least the HR folks that I work with in our company prefer to give out the minimum amount of information possible, but I don't know of any law prohibiting them from disclosing that information if they chose to do so.

Moral - don't overstate. If you must, use the word "approximately" when you state your income, or some other such weasel word, but expect at some point to come out smelling like a weasel if you pursue this course.
posted by LoraxGuy at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2007

Usually what happens is when the new company calls your current company they quote what you wrote and ask the HR dept if it is accurate. If you are caught at it you don't look too good but you might try a lame "I included the estimated benefits" as part of your package and see if they accept that. It's not good to lie about it...but then again, I think it is an obnoxious trend for companies to ask what you are making now and basing their offer on that. How are you ever supposed to get out of the salary ghetto if you can't get an offer based on your skills alone? But still, don't lie about it. Be non-committal if possible but don't lie.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2007

A lot depends on who your employer is. As a state employee my income is pretty easy to find if you use the right search terms; this doesn't bother me as I also am able to find where I am compared to my colleagues. That said, both sides of this question are troubling. Lying on a job application or interview are generally accepted reasons for termination, but they are not automatic reasons for termination. On the other hand, it is none of their business what you currently make, and there are certainly some ethicists who feel it is acceptable to lie if asked an inappropriate question.

The best bet is to ask HR or payroll what their policies are.
posted by TedW at 8:35 PM on November 30, 2007

in the united states (you didn't specify the country you are in), you get to fill out exit surveys with many companies. in those you can usually specify what you allow a company to comment on and disclose about yourself.

the sad thing about compensation in america is that how much responsibility/seniority you get often depends on how much you get paid, not how able you are.
posted by krautland at 11:04 PM on November 30, 2007

A better way to do this is to just say that you have an offer from another company and state how much that is. That's pretty much impossible to check up on.

Unless this is a very formal government agency or contractor, I think it's pretty unlikely that the company hiring you will bother to try to fish your exact old salary out of your current company. And if they do, a "slight" overstatement shouldn't bother them that much, especially if it looks like you just rounded up.
posted by ignignokt at 2:19 AM on December 1, 2007

Did you receive any tuition reimbursement, bonuses, or 401(k) matching from your current employer? If so, that's part of your total compensation package, and if asked, you can say that's what you understood them to be asking.

You're in trouble if the people you're interviewing with ask you to show them a recent paystub. That's never happened to me, but I've heard of it happening to others.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:37 AM on December 1, 2007

Seconding acridrabbit. I'm not sure how far it runs, but an employer is empowered to verify the information provided on your application.

Manager Tools has a discussion on this issue. Check out Mark Horstman's reply (directly linked).
posted by bfranklin at 8:12 AM on December 1, 2007

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