8 Ways to Find Out What Coworkers Earn

8 Ways to Find Out What Coworkers Earn

Dona DeZube |

Trying to find out what your peers earn may seem like a morally reprehensible act, but it can also be a defensive move if you suspect your employer of pay discrimination.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that employees need to file discrimination complaints when they first receive lower pay (as opposed to when they finally realize they’re getting lower pay), women and other protected classes have a good reason to find out what their employer pays others to do the same job.

How far you’re willing to go depends on where you draw the line between your need to know and your coworkers’ right to privacy, says H. Keith Melton, author of The Spy’s Guide: Office Espionage as well as the more serious look at professional sneaks, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda, which goes into more detail on spying techniques.

Keeping what Melton said in mind, here are eight ways to find out what others earn, starting with the least morally reprehensible.

1. Check the Paperwork

If you work for the federal government, pay grades are published. If you work for a nonprofit, the salaries for high-level employees will be listed in the tax returns, often found online at GuideStar. Check the company intranet for salary ranges, as well as external Web sites and Excelle for job postings that include salary.

2. Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Even the most timid employee can inadvertently stumble across salary data. People often leave ATM deposit envelopes on their desks and salary spreadsheets on the copy machine, says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, CCP, president of Human Resource Solutions.

3. Ask Your Coworkers

This is a great solution if you’re young enough to pull it off, says Annette O’Connor, president of Clearhead Consulting. Gen Y kids will just tell you what they earn, and they have no qualms about asking others about their pay, she says.

4. Talk to Your Boss

You can’t ask your boss what others make, but you can ask related questions. Try this one: “I’m making $35,000 now. What do I have to do to get to $45,000?” If no one is making $45,000, the boss will say so.

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