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The Job Pays What It Pays

I respond to the article, “Should employers ask for a previous salary,” in the March 30 edition of The Dispatch. As a consultant and workforce expert, I advise employers on tactics to improve their hiring processes, not only to find the best candidates but to foster an inclusive and equitable work culture.

In addition to establishing baseline requirements for the position, including skills, experience, and education, determining (and publicizing) an appropriate salary range for the position is a best practice. For hourly workers, that can be as much as a dollar per hour up or down. For senior-level and professional positions, that range can be $10,000. Within that range, employers have discretion to pay candidates less or more depending on their individual qualifications and experience. The job pays what it pays. The salary amount offered is objectively determined by the candidate’s qualifications and experience.

The Economic Policy Institute published findings from a 2016 study indicating that even for a first job out of college, women can earn less than their male counterparts. Since the work experience is the same for these entry-level candidates, the reason is likely attributable to gender bias, not life factors.

In the article, Ohio Chamber of Commerce Director of Labor and Legal Affairs Kevin Shimp cites a 2009 study from the US Department of Labor stating, “the differences in raw wages may almost entirely [be] the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” Yes, women often choose to step away from their careers to care for children and family members. Yet when they do, it is often an economic decision. She is the lower wage-earner in the family, so it makes sense for her to be the one to step away. When she starts out lower, she will stay lower if employers pay her—not based on what the job pays—but on what she’s been paid previously.

Pegging wages to previous salary is outdated thinking. Employers who pursue this approach lose in the marketplace. Employees today seek to bring their skills and talents to companies that they know will treat them fairly, equitably, and with respect. Wages are not a secret any longer. Today’s new entrants to the workforce have a different definition of privacy. They readily share their salaries with their peers.

The job pays what it pays. People should be paid objectively to do the job.

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