my male coworker makes more money than I do

A reader writes:

I am a lady-type person, and I’ve been with my tech-industry employer for about a year and a half. I work in a customer-service-type role as liaison between a handful of regular customers and engineers/developers. I am one of a two-person team in this role.

My previous teammate, officially the Team Lead, was part of a surprise office re-org at the end of March and moved into a different role in sales and account management. I also lost the next-level manager who had been in charge of the two of us – he went with her. This left me covering the work of two people, plus working under a manager who was new to both the team and the company. I immediately applied for the Lead position, since it was clear that New Manager didn’t understand my team or role very well (being new) and I was concerned about the effectiveness of his leadership with any external hire. The office is small enough and my position is “entry-level” enough that there was definitively no chance of an internal candidate (besides me) filling the vacancy on the team.

After three months of inaction, New Manager finally interviewed two external candidates for the Lead position – both dudes. I asked several times about my application during this time. The answer went from “I’ll interview you next week for sure!” to “I wouldn’t want to put you in that position just to see you fail” to “We’re not hiring a Team Lead for now, we’ll just hire at your level and see who rises to the top in six to ten months.”

Frustrating as that all is, I am fairly sure none of it is legally actionable since it was never made explicitly about my gender.


We hired Fergus (one of only two candidates we interviewed) about a month ago. Last week I belatedly realized I hadn’t shown him how to fill out his time sheet, so I asked if anyone had given him the template and shown him how to use it.

He doesn’t need one. He is being paid a salary.

I am being paid hourly.

He definitely, for sure, has the same non-supervisory job description as mine. Probably copy-pasted from mine, in fact. I haven’t had the stomach to ask what he’s being paid… but with the coming change in overtime regulations, I know that as of December 1 we will legally be required to pay him at least $5,000 more than what I make yearly. Not a huge discrepancy, I know … but still reasonable evidence that one exists. And that’s IF they’re paying him the minimum possible salary.

For what it’s worth, I’ve talked to our semi-unofficial HR lady (she’s our finance manager, but had been forced into HR because we didn’t have any, I guess?). She says the decision was solely New Manager’s, and she didn’t understand it either. I plan to ask about the discrepancy in an upcoming meeting with said manager, but am unsure how to address it (at least, without using the phrase “What the actual F?”).

Am I seeing discrimination where there only lies bad management? Am I being unreasonably mad about this stuff? Is this just… normal? What do I do next?

Well, there could be other explanations for it, but it sure looks a lot like sex discrimination.

Luckily, you don’t need to know for sure in order to act on it. The federal law that’s in play here – the Equal Pay Act of 1963– makes it illegal to pay an employee “less than the rate at which [the employer] pays wages to employees of the opposite sex…for equal work.” And that’s the case whether it was intentional discrimination or not. That makes this a little easier – you don’t have to show what’s in your boss’s heart, just that he is in fact paying a man and a woman differently for doing the same job. And it helps that the man is someone who he specifically told you he was bringing on “at your level.”

Of course, often when employers are confronted with evidence that they’re paying men and women differently, they’ll have explanations for the difference in wages: the man negotiated better, or he came from a more highly-paid previous job, or he’s being groomed for management. But none of those change the fact that if you’re doing basically the same work, paying you significantly differently violates the Equal Pay Act. (The law does make exceptions if the employer can show the pay differential is the result of seniority or a merit system. We know that at least the former isn’t the case here.)

Now throw in the fact that you applied for the job, were promised an interview, then were given a vague and weird answer about why you weren’t being interviewed after all, and then your boss instead interviewed two men and hired one of them at a substantially higher rate than he pays you … yeah, it doesn’t look great.

So, what should you do about it? Normally I’d say that this kind of thing is perfect for HR, because they’re trained to spot these sorts of issues and they generally recognize that complaints of discrimination need to be taken seriously. But you don’t really have HR, if I’m understanding your letter correctly – you have someone who does some HR duties on top of her regular work. That’s a pretty common set-up in smaller organizations, and it often means that the person stuck with the HR work isn’t really trained in this stuff. So it’s a bit of a crapshoot whether or not she’ll take it seriously and act on it – and her response when you asked her about initially (that the decision was solely your manager’s and that she didn’t understand it either) isn’t particularly promising.

That said, I could be wrong about her, especially if you framed it as “what can you tell me about this?” rather than as “I am concerned about discrimination.” If that’s the case, it’s worth going back to her now and addressing it more explicitly. Say something like this: “I’ve been thinking about the salary disparity between me and Fergus, and I’m concerned that we’re violating the Equal Pay Law by paying a man and a woman so differently for the same work.” (Note the “we” here – as in “we’re violating.” That’s deliberate, because it makes the conversation feel more collaborative and less adversarial. Because it’s the same tone you’d use if you were raising a less personal work concern, it sounds more like you’re looking out for the company’s best interest than making an overt legal threat. There’s still the subtext of potential legal action, but starting out this way lowers the heat in the conversation and gives you a better chance of a good outcome.)

You could raise this with your boss instead, and in many cases that would be a reasonable thing to do … but based on what you’ve written here, I’m not sure I trust your particular boss to handle this well. You know him better than I do, though, and if you feel comfortable raising it with him, you could approach it this way: “Given the recent attention on the gender wage gap, I’m concerned about the salary disparity between Fergus and me. Can you help me understand why he’s salaried and earning a higher wage while I’m hourly and earning a lower one, even though we both do the same job?”

Some managers in this situation will get sidetracked on how you even know what a coworker makes and may try to tell you that you shouldn’t be discussing salary with coworkers at all because the company considers that private information. If that happens, say something like, “For the purpose of this conversation, the issue I’m concerned about is the pay disparity. Can you help me understand that?” (Also, despite the weird ubiquity of “don’t discuss pay with your coworkers” policies, you should know that the National Labor Relations Act actually prohibits employers from preventing non-supervisory employees from discussing pay with each other … so you’re in the clear there.)

If this doesn’t result in either (a) a satisfying explanation of why your coworker is being paid so differently than you or (b) an increase to your salary to bring you up to the same level as him, then at that point you have legal options available. You can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (no lawyer necessary!), and they’ll do at least an initial investigation of the complaint. Or you might find it helpful to talk over your options with a lawyer (which doesn’t necessarily mean suing; often lawyers are great for just advising you on how to negotiate with your employer).

Good luck, and here’s hoping you come out of this with a raise and a newly enlightened manager.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 322 comments… read them below }

  1. Cake Name*

    Your HR person shouldn’t be discussing salary with you like that. Regardless of what else is going on, that’s the type of confidential information HR has access to that they are super not supposed to share.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think HR talked to her about the new guy’s specific salary (since the OP still doesn’t know it – she just knows it’s going to be higher than hers because of the new overtime regulations) but just the fact that he’s being paid salaried while she’s being paid hourly. I don’t think the HR person did anything wrong by not refusing to acknowledge that.

    2. Adam V*

      It didn’t sound like they were discussing figures – just that one was salaried and the other was hourly.

      The OP knows how much she’s paid, and can determine, based on the law, roughly what the other employee will be paid.

    3. Mike C.*

      HR shouldn’t be sharing that information with others on a whim, but that information is absolutely not confidential. I can tell anyone about my wages and most certainly my coworkers.

      1. Kathlynn*

        An employee can share much information that is considered confidential, if they are the person experiencing the issue. Like health issues, and such. That doesn’t mean something isn’t Confidential. I personally think that salaries are something that should be confidential on the employer’s side (like, either all salaries are made public, or they should be hard to access).
        My current manager ran in to this, where a coworker found out her salary, and told everyone. This made the workplace harder for my manager (who was hired as a regular worker, slotted for assistant management, since you have to complete in house training for the title first).
        I was warned to keep my mouth shut because of my wage, since they brought me in at a higher wage as well. Because bother she and the other manager have worked with me, they know my work ethic and availability. That means, decent to high performer and will come in almost when ever they call me. (the wage difference is like 30c, and raises are merit and training based)

        1. Mike C.*

          If the wage difference is minor and based on performance and training, why would that knowledge be an issue?

          1. Roscoe*

            I think it should be up to the person if they want their salary shared or not. Its true that you may be ok with it, but that doesn’t mean everyone is. I’d be upset if HR discussed my salary with someone else.

          2. Kathlynn*

            First, the whole situation is complicated, because the company we now work for bought a local chain store a year ago, and kept all the old employees. So, seniority is complicated. We all worked for the chain store, but my store wasn’t bought, so I’m a brand new employee in the company’s (and coworker’s) eyes, while they were grandfathered in. Which is also where I sit. I’m a new employee, no problem.
            But all the coworkers I work with are older then me. Most of them think they are top performers (and aren’t), and would resent the fact that I started at a wage higher then they have now, after a year.
            One coworker, who likes me, would especially be upset because she’s gotten mad before when I’ve been shown things, or done them myself, before management showed her how to do them.
            Another coworker who doesn’t seem to like me, would think it’s a sign of special treatment, and treat me worse. Especially since she already resents me for accepting all the over time I get asked to do (she won’t answer her phone though. She doesn’t want anyone to take overtime, supposedly to force the company to hire more people.).
            And the other two coworkers I regularly deal with are the type to complain about anyone/thing.
            It’s the old “why is she making more then me I’m such a good worker, and I’ve been here longer” issue. Which can totally be valid (been there, one raise after 6 years at a company)

          3. Kathlynn*

            I forgot to mention, having been on the other side, I can see how easy it is to be angry over pay differences. Before the company was sold, and my manager left, she hired a new coworker, at more then anyone else makes (by at least dollar an hour, which at min. wage is a lot). The difference between me and a lot of people I know, I was not angry at the coworker, I was angry at the manager/company, for not paying us fairly. And for hiring an incompetent worker and giving them more money then me.
            I also know people who get mad when they haven’t been given a raise, and others are hired at a rate slightly higher then they were. And yeah, they weren’t mad at the company, they were mad that their coworkers. Even though they still made more then their new coworkers. (this includes wages after minimum wage went up, those people were angry their wages weren’t automatically raised as well).
            The thing about my old job, the management and upper management didn’t give out raises, so their was no point in asking, you wouldn’t get one.

  2. Lucy Honeychurch*

    I agree this sounds icky, but I’m a bit confused–it sounded to me from the letter as though Fergus is the team lead, so wouldn’t that be justification for paying him more?

    1. Lucy Honeychurch*

      Oh, never mind, I re-read it and it’s clear that they decided not to hire a team lead and hired Fergus on the same level as the OP instead.

    2. NeedaName*

      Well, LW says that her mgr said “We’re not hiring a Team Lead for now, we’ll just hire at your level and see who rises to the top in six to ten months.” Also, they’re doing the exact same work, exact same job description. So not a team lead.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      From the letter, the last thing the boss said before hiring Fergus was: “We’re not hiring a Team Lead for now, we’ll just hire at your level and see who rises to the top in six to ten months.”

    4. Sara*

      I think although they interviewed him for Team Lead originally they ultimately hired Fergus at the OP’s level.

    5. Mee Too*

      I have a feeling that while this is what the OP was told it is not what actually happened. I think the new employee was hired as team lead with salary to match and told he would need to train by doing the work for the first six months at which time his title will become official. Depending on how involved the semi-HR person was with hiring she may not know this.

      1. Hotel GM Guy*

        Yeah I got the impression that he was hired to lead her and she’s training her boss, but OP doesn’t see the forest through the trees.

        1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

          I wouldn’t put it past New Manager to pull something like that and be too afraid to tell me about it… but I’m pretty confident that’s not the case here. Fergus was genuinely surprised when he found out I wasn’t Team Lead either. He said when they hired him on at the lower level he just assumed I’d gotten the position.

          1. Hotel GM Guy*

            It is possible that New Manager actually meant what he said when he told you that he’d reassess in 6 months. Maybe neither of his two interviewees were strong enough to immediately jump to lead, and he wasn’t sure if you’re ready either.

            I think you ought to wait and see how the promotion thing actually plays out before raising a stink about the salaried vs hourly thing. They could, after all, be getting ready to change how you’re paid once December rolls around.

  3. JMegan*

    I would go with “What the actual F?????” as well, which is probably why Alison writes this kind of advice column and I don’t.

    Good luck, OP, and I’d love to hear an update when you have one.

    1. MoinMoin*

      In fairness, I would totally add an advice blog that starts every answer with “What the actual F?????” to my reading repertoire.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have a letter coming tomorrow where my answer starts that way, and I want it to be known that it was already written when I read this; it is not mere pandering to this sentiment.

            1. Lady Phoenix*

              May I suggest a tag then?

              Personally, I would love it to say “What the farfanoogin” or even “What the duck” (especially since the latter is an actual thing that happened in this website), but whatever works for you.

              Also, since you are mentioning tomorrows letter, I hope that it isn’t an update where things went wrong.

              1. Rat in the Sugar*

                Is farfanoogin how that’s actually spelled?? I’ve been saying Fart-Fig-Newton since I was a kid! Like, a Fig Newton, but with farts inside? I thought that’s what everyone was saying…

                What the heck does farfanoogin ACTUALLY mean, then??

                1. Rat in the Sugar*

                  Huh, thanks! Googling that shows it was an ad campaign… wonder how we turned it into this weird slang…

                  I mean, other people use that as a mildly comical insult, right? Right?! I haven’t just randomly been mispronouncing “driving enjoyment” as “fart cookie” and calling people that, have I?!

                  Crap, I’m apparently learning some new things today.

            2. Mephyle*

              As Canadians of a certain age know (I think you have to be in your 50’s or older*), it’s “What the fuddle-duddle.”
              *It’a googleable, and it was coined in 1971.

              1. Chinook*

                Nope – younger than 50 and I remember fuddle-duddle being quoted in textbooks to show how young and non-stodgy said prime minister was. Around her it is also used as an adjective to ironically describe his National Energy Plan.

  4. AnonForThisOnly*

    This seems like a more clear-cut case than usual. They’re both in the same entry level position, and if anything, the OP has more experience.

    I really don’t know much about equal pay requirements, though, so I don’t understand how you ever make the case in most situations, where you’re higher up the ladder and have a longer history with the company. Like Alison said, “They’ll have explanations for the difference in wages: The man negotiated better, or he came from a higher-paid previous job, or he’s being groomed for management. But none of those change the fact that if you’re doing basically the same work, paying you significantly differently violates the Equal Pay Act.”

    What does allow them to pay men more? If I am a 15 year person and my coworker is a 20 year person, his salary is likely going to be higher. Is that legal? If we have the same title, but he works on more complex projects than I do, can he be paid more? What if there are a range of employees with the same title, and the woman is paid at the lower end, but her experience aligns with the men at the higher end more than the lower end? How does performance factor in? Must the “C” rated person with the same title be paid the same as the “A” rated person?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The law does allow you to pay differently if you can show that it’s because of seniority (Joe has been here five years longer than Jane) or a merit system (Joe’s performance ratings are consistently higher than Jane’s).

      1. Me*

        How exact does the “same job duties” thing have to be? It’s rare that two people have completely identical job duties.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s not rare to have identical job *descriptions,* and that’s probably what counts.

        2. neverjaunty*

          They don’t have to be exact. I believe it’s “substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility” – not exactly the same. Whether a job is or isn’t “substantially equal” is going to vary and there’s no bright line rule, but in the OP’s situation, it’s a little hard to see how their jobs are in any way different.

          1. WorkingMom*

            We don’t know what Fergus’ qualifications are. Maybe he has a level of experience or some kind of advanced degree, or certification/background that made him more desirable, and therefore the hiring manager was willing up to the offer to get him to accept? It’s also possible that they offered a salary and he negotiated a higher one, right? I’m not sure about the difference between hourly/salary though – it seems odd that for the same role with the same duties, one would be salaried and one would be hourly. That would be my question to raise with management, ‘Hey I offered to help Fergus with the time reporting system and he said he was salaried. Is this a change we’re making for our roles?” or something along those lines. It could be discrimination, sure. I would necessarily assume as much though – without knowing other factors.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Anything is possible, as the saying goes, which is why AAM’s advice is for the OP to look into it. I don’t think she needs to bend over backwards assuming there must be some other explanation, though.

              1. Koko*

                And as Alison says, it doesn’t have to be intentional discrimination to be an illegal pay disparity. If he has an advanced degree but it doesn’t actually help him do the job at a higher level, or even if he just negotiated a better salary, the company is still leaving themselves open to a claim if they are paying the man more than the woman to do the same job, whatever innocuous reason they might have had for doing so.

              2. WorkingMom*

                I think my viewpoint might be a little biased, from the perspective that I have not recently worked for an employer who would do anything illegal, unethical, or even remotely shady. So given my experience, my mind doesn’t automatically go to the “illegal and/or discrimination” place, but rather to the “there must be more to it that than” place. However, I certainly recognize that my inclination has a huge part to do with my recent employers. I realize there are many, many employers out there who are not always legal, ethical, and not-at-all-shady. So I am sure my internal bias to assume no negative intent is factored in here.

        3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          So my writers and designers all are considered to have the same job duties within their group.

          Yes, Jane may actually take on more newsletter pieces to Jim’s letter writing. Or Fergus may do more email design, while Jill does print layouts, but their job functions are the same.

          We have a salary band for each position, and if I want to start someone at the higher-end of the band, I have to provide reasons (i.e. they have 3 years works experience, when the position asks for 1-3, they have extra certification).

  5. AndersonDarling*

    Would it make a difference if Fergus had a Super Degree and certifications? It seems like wage discrimination conversations get sidetracked with “Well, he has a degree and you don’t”- even though the woman without the degree has 10 years experience.
    Does it just come down to one man and one woman with the same job duties? Or does experience and education make a difference?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s a good explanation here:

      “Courts will use experience, education, and training to determine skill-level, but only to the extent that they are actual requirements for the performance of the tasks associated with the position.”

      In other words, the company would need to show how having a degree truly changes the quality or quantity of work being performed.

  6. Mustache Cat*

    OP, yes, press this issue and get yourself a raise.

    But I would also start looking for a job. In six to ten months, one of you two will “rise to the top” and be hired as Team Lead….and I am willing to bet that it won’t be you. (And it totally won’t be retaliation for complaining. Wha-aat?? No way)

    1. Temperance*

      It’s just that Fergus is really a superstar, and he’s a good cultural fit …. not because he’s a man, and we have bro lunches and golf together, nosiree …..

          1. Formica Dinette*

            Same here–literal LOL!

            *shoves “pen… penchant” into back pocket for later use*

      1. neverjaunty*

        And his performance reviews are just better. He’s more assertive and confident, whereas you could probably work on your people skills – you’re perceived as too aggressive and not a team player.

            1. Desdemona*

              This week at work, I participated in a “diversity” seminar at work, where the guys I work with concluded that people who smile are less competent than people who don’t. That was followed up the next morning by a senior executive calling out one woman on his team in a staff meeting, with a resting face, surrounded by male resting faces, urging her to smile. We really can’t win.

              1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

                Butbutbut how will he know for sure she’s less competent than him if she doesn’t smile??!? What, was she just going to get away with selfishly not-smiling and bruising his Important Man-Ego by not sweetly conforming to his Important Man-Worldview, In Which Everything Exists To Please Him? I mean jeez seriously women these days. Can’t teach ’em anything.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Also I have no idea whether you might get pregnant and leave. BTW could you get me some coffee?

        2. Nursey Nurse*

          His appearance is more polished, too. You need to style your hair differently and start wearing makeup and pantyhose.

    2. Mephyle*

      He may “rise to the top”, or he may already be the team lead and no one told OP. I wouldn’t put it past them, given the sequence of events. That they told her they were hiring him on her level doesn’t guarantee that that’s what they actually did. The difference in pay system is a clue that this scenario isn’t completely out of the bounds of possibility.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I wondered if they hired him and told him he was kinda-sorta-team-lead, told OP he wasn’t, and that this will lead to him eventually trying to order OP around.

      2. MillersSpring*

        Such a valid point. Fergus may have a planned promotion in 3 or 6 months. F—ing Fergus.

      3. DoDah*

        This exactly. My former employer was famous for hiring people with semi-management titles and higher wages and setting them loose on teams. Enter chaos—ensuing.

        I don’t miss that.

    3. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

      @Mustache Cat, JMegan, Temperance, neverjaunty (and everyone who replied to same): You people are my kind of people. I needed a good dose of high-quality snark today. :D

      @MillersSpring: F—ing Fergus, indeed. I can’t tell you how many times I have said, and continue to say, that exact phrase as I run across more and more of the things he Just Plain Effed Up. I estimate it’s at a roughly 2:1 ratio between Effort It Takes To Fix This Shit and Hypothetical Effort Had He Never Been Hired In The First Place.

      At least he made it abundantly clear to New Manager that he was not, in any way, a better or more qualified candidate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It is! But it doesn’t matter if the end result is that they’re paying a man and woman differently for the same work, and it’s not because of any actual difference in work quality, quality, or seniority.

      1. AnonForThisOnly*

        So, I have a coworker who came in at just the right time and was making about $30,000 more than me (he did negotiate a huge pay jump to change companies). He is a “Senior XX” and I’m only an “XX”. This title change came about because we promoted several people, including me, to new XXs, and the handful of pre-existing XXs asked for upgraded titles. He has only two years more of post college experience than me and one year more as an XX/Senior XX. (The other two Senior XXs have 15-25 years more experience than me). Senior XX and XX jobs do the same stuff and have pretty much the same responsibility. If anything, what I do more closely matches the Senior XXs than the XXs I came in with. I don’t know our performance grades, but I would say we are close – I get good ratings, he gets good ratings. I think I’m paid in line with most people of my years out of college, maybe $5-$10k under avg – he’s just really lucky.

        But, does his “luck” and big pay upgrade kind of mess things up for the company? Did they set a new bar? I am more on the side of pointing it out than actually making a case, but it seems this type of one-off situation would happen a lot.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is getting beyond the limits of my knowledge, but I suspect that if there are other men in your job being paid the same as you and this is just one guy who’s an outlier, it’s probably fine. But I’m guessing.

        2. designbot*

          Depends what you mean by ‘mess things up for the company.’ It sets a certain expectation for you to move up in just a year or two that you may not have had otherwise, so that could become an issue. It blurs the line between an XX and a Senior XX, which depending on how you guys bill things could be an issue. I was in your shoes in a situation like this once and it wrecked havoc on our budgets because the supposedly Senior designer wasn’t actually operating at a level that justified her billings, so that became A Thing because she was tanking the budget of every project she touched. But, if the Senior XX actually performs at an appropriate level then this wouldn’t be a concern and all that’s left is the optics and their impact on someone like yourself. As far as legal issues go, he’ll always have a couple more years of experience than you, so there’s always room to say that between you and him is where the barrier to entry lies.

          1. AnonForThisOnly*

            What I meant by “mess things up” was that the EPA stuff I read at Alison’s link says one male employee paid at that rate who does the same job as one female employee can be discriminatory (depending on all the other factors). I don’t think it’s discriminatory because so many others are in my band instead of his, but I wondered if it could be construed that way. I am thinking “no” now that I have thought about it.

            ITA about the budgets, though. We do that type of work, and he does get billed out at the next level higher, but I think he actually performs at that level, so it’s not a problem.

        3. Jules*

          This is not a legal advice – disclaimer

          You can have more years of experience but if he is in a senior role, he can be paid higher. If you had bid on the senior role but he gets it due to other reasons than KSA (knowledge, skill, ability) that could get your company into legal trouble). The job description itself need to be able to differentiate the roles between senior and the standard level. However, from my experience, you rarely get a lot of salary staying in the same job. He probably has moved around and therefore pulled ahead of his peers.

        4. Pari*

          If you can make a case that you’re doing the same work, he’s making more, and the senior title is simply a cover for the wage disparity you might have a real case. But be careful with evaluating “same work”. If the employer can show that he handles more important clients or shows his work is somehow different or that he handles more of the same work that might put a damper on your claim. I can’t tell but im assuming you’re a woman which you’d have to be obviously

    2. Temperance*

      Eh, women are punished for negotiating, so this is specifically NOT a defense to pay inequity.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I know you’re using shorthand here, but I’m on a mission to fight the idea that as a woman, you will be punished for negotiating. Many, many women negotiate successfully without any penalty. In the aggregate, data shows that it’s more likely to be seen differently from a woman than from a man (that doesn’t necessarily mean punished though!).

        As an individual woman, you absolutely should not be deterred from negotiating, and I want to scream that from the rooftops.

        (And I know that’s not your point, but I worry the shorthand can mislead people.)

          1. neverjaunty*

            Let’s be honest that women are punished for both. But of the two, it’s better to choose negotiating, especially since there are ways to mitigate the penalties.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              In the aggregate. Many, many individual women aren’t penalized for either.

              I’m making a point about this because I’ve seen an alarming number of people post things here like “I don’t think I should negotiate since women are penalized for it,” and that’s just not how it works, and I want to be really, really sure that things on AAM aren’t contributing to that mindset.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Words to live by, but kind of not following how that applies here? The problem isn’t that negotiation is frowned on when women do it simply because women don’t do it, but that it falls into that same ‘assertive/aggressive’ gender stereotyping.

                2. Tomato Frog*

                  But the change I want to see is for pay not to be based on whether or not you negotiate. :P

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                But there’s a difference between acknowledging women get punished for negotiating and saying “Women should never negotiate.”

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But the more accurate statement is “some women sometimes get penalized for negotiating.” My concern is that people are taking it “I will get penalized for negotiating.”

              2. Miss Betty*

                It’d be nice to actually meet some of these women who aren’t punished for negotiating. I’ve heard about them – but I’ve heard about a lot of things I’ve never seen. Personal stories on Friday, anyone? I’m especially interested about hearing from women who are in traditional women’s roles. Support staff? Administrative staff? Librarians, nurses, daycare workers – any of you who’ve successfully negotiated a better starting wage and/or better raises – I’d love to hear your stories on Friday!

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m a woman who negotiates and doesn’t seem to be penalized for it, and have been one for the last 15 years … so hello! We exist. We are legion. We are not rare birds. This question makes me so upset, if the premise is that we are.

                2. Pari*

                  I have many women friends who I’ve helped successfully negotiate pay increases during the hiring process. Most ended up with a higher amount, although not always exactly what they countered, a few were turned down and accepted the original offer, and no one has ever had their offer pulled. I’m talking probably 15-20 women friends whom I’ve helped articulate what they were going to say, what data to use and so forth.

                3. Tennymo*

                  I know you said to share on Friday, but in the spirit of not putting it off, I have negotiated salary for all the professional jobs I’ve held since college (so… 5 times?) I’ve worked in government and non-profits, so not male dominated organizations. My experiences have ranged from super straightforward and easy (along the lines of “we’re offering you X.” “Oh I was hoping for Y” “ok that works.”) to more drawn out negotiations with multiple factors and various rationales put forward. I have never been penalized. It has felt… Expected? Sometimes a little nerve-wracking a ahead of time, but always perfectly cordial and even a little exhilarating in the moment? Don’t leave money on the table, people!

                4. TCO*

                  I’m a woman who has successfully negotiated salary at each of my last three jobs, including one raise that was over $20k (switching industries helped, but so did negotiation). This is in social services and higher ed. I’ve never felt a hint of resentment or blowback for doing it. We exist!

                5. Nicole*

                  I’m a woman in education.

                  I’ve felt somewhat penalized once for negotiating salary, but I’ve negotiated several times and most of the time it was good, or even great and it was certainly expected. For the record, the one time that I felt penalized, my soon-to-be supervisor reacted as if only a jerk would try to get more money out of the university. It turned out to be a sign of things to come and was a fairly toxic environment. When I got out of there for another position at the same university, they suggested an X% raise, but I told them that I had been underpaid and would need to be paid at a level more comparable to my peers and suggested a number that was much higher. My new (current) boss didn’t even blink, just told me he’d check with the administrator and get back to me. My heart was pumping so hard but I was very glad I’d done it. Even though I have had one instance where I felt like negotiating negatively impacted my boss’ impression of me from the beginning, I wouldn’t hesitate to negotiate again or to advise friends to negotiate. In fact, I think now that negotiating can also give some good insight into the culture.

                6. neverjaunty*

                  @AAM, I think that’s a little unfair – Miss Betty didn’t say women who have successfully negotiated are “rare birds” or don’t exist, she said that it’s something she hadn’t encountered (especially in traditional women’s roles) and would love to hear more.

                7. JBurr*

                  I’m a woman in a human resources administration role in a male-dominated company/industry who negotiated for an additional 6% on the offered rate (this is a lot for my early career stage and reasonable salary expectations). I was not punished for this by my boss or his boss, who had to approve it. They actually both value me enormously. It really was as simple as, “I was hoping for more” and then “I think X, Y, and Z experiences place me into this range.”

                8. DoDah*

                  I had an offer pulled once for negiotating—but it was 20 years ago and in a very conservative industry.

                9. Sofia*

                  I like this question and it is very encouraging to hear about all these women who have successfully negotiated their salaries. I’ve only ever tried once and was told that they couldn’t go any higher. I will definitely need to research more tips next time.

                10. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @neverjaunty: Nah, I’m sad about the whole thing. Whenever this comes up here, there’s an attitude of “I won’t try negotiating because I’ll be penalized” and something like a bitter resignation and it’s so, so frustrating. I may make these stories here into their own standalone post.

                11. Kathlynn*

                  I like hearing about people negotiating, but I still wouldn’t know how to go about it. I may be late 20’s but I’ve only had 2 long term jobs. And as it’s cashier-retail job, didn’t feel like I could. Just assumed I’d be getting min. wage or close to it.

                12. Ineloquent*

                  I also don’t think it’s rare, but on my last promotion, I countered the salary offered and proposed one much higher, citing that is addition to my great accomplishments and clear expertise, my previous manager had told me point blank that I was underpaid. My management team took my request and mulled it for a day, during which time, my previous manager – a total prick – called and told me that he had heard that I had countered somehow. He then told me in a very condescending manner that I shouldn’t try to negotiate because I shouldn’t appear ungrateful. I doubt he would have given this advice to a male employee. Fortunately, he had no say in my salary by then. My actual managers came back and said that they couldn’t swing an increase right then, but we had a great conversation about expectations and goals. In the 6 months following my pay had increased by most of what I wanted, and my leadership team and I both know and agree on how we want my career to progress in the company. I count this as a win despite what I saw as an attempt to put me in my place. Thank heavens I don’t work for that guy anymore.

                13. I Love Spreadsheets*

                  Hi all, I read this blog daily, although don’t post much. I am a woman in Accounting/Finance industry. I did not negotiate my first 3 career jobs, because I a) did not know I should do it b) did not know how, and c) did not read this blog. I was at my 3rd job for 6 years prior to changing jobs for the 4th time this year. I did negotiate this time, however. I was offered Salary X (which was 10% higher than my last one). I negotiated additional 5% for the salary and also a sign on bonus, which was not part of the original offer. My year end bonus structure remained similar to my last job. I felt that I could do better if I negotiated a second round, but I was not sure if I could or if they would pull the offer. Plus I was not sure how much higher is usually negotiated and whether I was being greedy (the usual fears of professional women?). I really wanted this job, plus getting out of my old one was detrimental for my mental health, so I decided against negotiating further and accepted. I still don’t know how well or poorly I did at that negotiation, but at least I did negotiate and overall I have been much happier at my new job. So yes, it is possible (and probable) to be successful and you should do it!

                14. Rocky*

                  I’m a woman in a female-dominated industry, and have successfully negotiated my salary twice in the same position – first time when they hired me (offer was below market, I asked for $10k more, there was some hemming and hawing, I indicated it was a dealbreaker, and got it), then again after I’d been here a few years and could point to great measurable results and some milestone achievements (percentage based this time, and not a hard sell). I have not been penalized either time, in any way.

                  I also hire people, men and women, and about half the men and half the women negotiate their salaries when I offer. I silently root for them to negotiate, tbh.

                  Also, as another commenter alluded to, my salary is not even close to the most difficult thing I’ve had to negotiate at work. I’d guess that’s true for most people in management.

                15. Chinook*

                  See my story below. I have worked in various administrative support type roles over the last 15 years(former military wife/current cop’s wife, so we move a lot) and I have always gotten what I want (because I always ask for more so I have room to negotiate). And I never take a job without at least negotiating something. The fields I have done this include accounting, a professional nursing association, hardware/software development, pipeline, warehouse supply chain and newspaper publishing. I have done this with men and women and never had a negative response (to my face). Maybe it is a Canadian thing, but I honestly can’t see the harm in asking.

                16. I Love Spreadsheets*

                  The new motto that I try to implement into various aspects of life is: “If you don’t ask, the answer is always NO” :-) I am working on asking for things that I would not have asked for when I was younger. It is scary. Sometimes the answer is no, but so what? What I have learned, is that more often than not, the answer is either Yes, or it is something closer to the Yes. The confidence comes from knowing that even if the answer is no, life goes on. But I’m still scared to ask, every.single.time.

                17. Cheryl*

                  We are legion. (love that.) I’ve worked in several settings – elementary schools, community education centers, and now in higher ed. I’ve successful negotiated all of the jobs that I’ve held, from anywhere to $3-10,000. My most current job is a union job and people think that those can’t be negotiated. But my experience was that you can negotiate your starting place on the pay scale. I ended up two steps higher than I was offered, and it wasn’t contentious. They offered a starting level, and I said, “Oh, I was expecting level X because of A and B experience” and they said, “Let me check the department budget” and then came back the next day and said OK. And literally, we spent less than 30 seconds negotiating.

                18. Blossom*

                  I’ve successfully negotiated my last two job offers. Caveats: it was within the advertised salary band (e.g. top of band, or at least a midpoint), as in my sector you can’t really negotiate above it. I also work in a specialised, high-demand field. Oh, and the sector itself is female dominated (though less so at the top).

                  I don’t negotiate just to see how much I can get; it’s more to make sure that the offer is an improvement on my current situation, or on a rival offer.

                19. Mreasy*

                  I’m a woman who negotiates salary & have always gotten a bump up as a result! Also I recently negotiated rent down on a new dream apartment. It can be done!!

                20. V*

                  I’ve experienced both outcomes. I am a lawyer, junior enough that there are still many women at my level, but senior enough that there are not many senior to me. I didn’t negotiate my first job offer – I should have. 16 months later at my first full review I asked for a significant raise based on my high billable hours and market rates, and got it.

                  I tried to negotiate the offer for my next job (still very junior) but was matter-of-factly told it was lock-step and thus take it or leave it. I took it. No hard feelings on either side.

                  The next job offer came when I was more senior, and that firm recruited me. The offer was 10% less money and 1 week less vacation time than I was already making. I asked them to match my salary and vacation time (which were market, if not slightly below), and grant full maternity benefits after 1 year instead of 2. They pulled the offer without countering. I was shocked. My mentors were surprised at the low offer and shocked that the firm pulled it without further discussion. The firm ended up hiring a dude slightly junior to me. I really, really hope it wasn’t the the maternity request that killed it. Later heard through current and former employees that upper mgmt was stingy with non-equity lawyers across the board and ultimately I am very glad I didn’t end up there.

                  Next offer was at market for salary and benefits; I negotiated for a better title and got it. Very straightforward negotiations and both sides were happy with the outcome.

                  So, based on my anecdotal evidence, yes, sometimes offers are pulled when you negotiate, but more often both sides treat each other with respect and recognize that negotiations are a normal step in the process. Again, this is just anecdotal, but the firm that acted irrationally had internal problems, and I’m guessing that their pulling the offer rather than negotiating (or just saying take it or leave it) is a symptom of those problems.

                  TL;DR: In my experience, a company that pulls an offer in response to a rational attempt to negotiate is not a good place to work.

                21. Jersey's Mom*

                  I’m an ecological scientist and successfully negotiated vacation for my current job. They offered 10 days, I requested 21 days and got it. Still working there 15 years and two promotions later. Never felt that I was penalized, and in fact, am considered an expert in my position in the company. I was quite nervous about the negotiation, but had some good facts on my side and it worked!

                22. Laura*

                  I’ve successfully negotiated a higher salary twice. I left company A for company B and got them to up their offer 10%. When things didn’t pan out I stepped into a new role in my old group back at Company A and got another 10% over that.

                  That said, I’ve seen two white men with less experience and knowledge promoted over me, so it’s not all roses over here.

                23. mazzy*

                  Wait – you want to hear from women who’ve negotiated but then list off low paying (perceived as) low skill jobs that we all know aren’t the type of jobs one negotiates in – and then label them “women’s jobs” to make it seem worse that people don’t negotiate in them. That’s quite a straw man.

                  My former work partner negotiated when she started. Unfortunately for your question, most people don’t tell their peers that they negotiated since most people don’t discuss their salary or benefits with their coworkers.

                24. sarah*

                  I’m in a more traditionally male field, and was not punished for negotiating. I have negotiated upon hiring at two jobs, and both times it was fairly successful (didn’t necessarily get everything I asked for, but got some of it) and has not seemed to come with any reputational costs down the line.

            2. fposte*

              Right, “more for” isn’t the same as “only.” But the statistics so far are pretty clear that women who negotiate have a long-term better financial outcome, so it looks like it mitigates the hell out of the penalties.

              And of course humans tend to disproportionately weight the possibility of negative consequences from action as opposed to those from inaction, and I also think we overweight it when it aligns with our own worries; if you’re afraid of flying, you think crashing happens more often than it does, and if you’re afraid of stating what you want because you’re afraid people won’t like you or it’s not a thing good girls do, you think bad things happen more often than they do.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Absolutely! But knowing that (on the aggregate, of course) men are rewarded and women penalized for negotiating is important – not because it means “don’t negotiate, ladies” but “be aware of this difference and look into ways to mitigate and work around it.” I agree with AAM that we shouldn’t be scaring anyone away from negotiating, but women get burned by thinking it’s 2016 and sexism isn’t a thing.

                1. fposte*

                  But it’s not true that on the aggregate women are penalized for negotiating. And honestly, I think more women get burned by thinking that 2016 or not, women shouldn’t ask for stuff.

                  It doesn’t help that the research is apples and oranges–the best-known research about penalties tends to be in a lab situation with strangers, while the research about benefits tends to be looking at what women actually make.

                2. Turtle Candle*

                  I’m seeing firm assertions both that women are penalized on the aggregate, and that they aren’t, which makes me curious where the confidence (either way) is coming from–all I’ve seen is individual studies + anecdotes, and I’ve looked into the topic. Is there some body of research that I’m missing? Because everything I’ve seen points to the much fuzzier “it certainly affects some percentage of women but it’s hard to know how much and in what industries.”

                3. fposte*

                  @Turtle Candle–I think the recent impetus for the negative came from the Linda Babcock study referenced in the AAM post called “Ladies, be dainty when asking for a raise.” It’s certainly a creepy-ass finding, and the researcher is an advocate for women’s negotiation, so I bet she was disappointed with the result.

                  I am a bad academic and lost my source, but I went digging into academic journals of economics and human relations behind the university paywall, and the article I drew most strongly on was the study whose focus was the fact that women’s negotiation earns them less than men’s negotiation tends to. However, a finding that I thought was a lot more important than the authors did was the fact that women who negotiate did considerably better than women who didn’t.

                  I’ve got house craziness at the moment but I’ll see if I can rediscover the actual reference.

            3. Pari*

              In my experience too many women punish themselves by believing they will be punished for negotiating when that’s frequently not the case. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen just that many employers who want to hire someone, especially in professional positions, negotiate with women as much as they do with men. But the men seem to intiate it more often.

              1. Jennifer*

                What it really boils down to is, if you’re a woman, you are taking a risk by negotiating, and it may or may not pay off, and you may or may not get punished for it. It could go any way. And well, some women aren’t willing to take the risk.

                I’m in a field where all salaries are set and there’s no negotiation, and…honestly, I’m kinda relieved that I don’t have the option to try to negotiate or have to debate whether or not it’s worth the risk to try it.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No. I refuse to let that stand, for all the reasons I’ve already given here. This kind of comment is incredibly harmful, and I believe it’s wrong.

                  For the vast majority of people, men or women, you are not taking a huge risk by negotiating. As fposte has pointed out, research shows that women get penalized more for NOT negotiating because of the long-term financial impact. She’s also pointed out that the most commonly cited “women penalized for negotiating” research isn’t based on actual real world outcomes, but rather on surveying research subjects on their feeling toward the women they’re shown in negotiation.

                  Women who decide that negotiation is a risk they’re not willing to take are doing themselves a disservice. If nothing else, though, they absolutely should not encourage other women to follow their lead. This angers me like little else here angers me; it’s actively discouraging women from doing something that’s pretty likely to garner them more money.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m 100% with you – I think all women should feel confident enough to negotiate, and I absolutely would not want my glib internet comment to contribute to the culture encouraging women not to assert themselves!

          1. Kate*

            Actually . . . there is a certain cost in how people who negotiate are perceived, which is much higher for women than it is for men.

            But overall it sounds like women are better off to negotiate than to not.

            I understand what you are saying AAM, but ignoring that there is sometimes a cost women pay for negotiating, when we know that isn’t true, casts a shadow on and makes other negotiating advice seem unrealistic.

            I think we have to acknowledge the sometimes downsides and the often upsides, and encourage them to take the risk, not deny that there is a risk.

      2. Undine*

        I also want to say, if you ever want to be a manager, it is helpful to learn about negotiating, because you will also have to do it from the other side. The last couple of times I got a job, I asked for a high salary because they made me start the negotiations and I might as well aim high. And both times, the female hiring manager just went ahead and got me that money. One time, it had to go all the way up to the CEO for approval! (Small company, of course.) And part of me was thinking, “Hey, this is only a starting point. Don’t you know about negotiation?” (Which I did not say out loud, of course.) I’d even said, “This would make me very happy, but I might be willing to discuss it,” and they still gave me what I want. So practice now!

        1. Gaara*

          But it shouldn’t be a company’s objective to get employees to take the absolute minimum they will accept. That might lead to more dissatisfaction, which in turns leads to turnover and morale problems. They might have just thought that the number you threw out there was fair, given the role and your experience.

      3. Chinook*

        As someone who accidentally negotiated turning a position from part-time to full-time with a higher wage, I have to disagree (especially since I have successfully negotiated every job I have ever taken since then, always getting what I want). It does happen and those stereotypes won’t change unless women are willing to trust that they will be treated equally.

        How did I “accidentally negotiate”? My job wasn’t giving me enough hours to survive on when life circumstances changed and I told my (male, tech company owning) boss I was looking for a new job. He asked why. I told him I needed more hours and greater take home and I thought he wouldn’t be able to offer him. Turned out he really didn’t want to loose me and he countered with what it took for me to stay another 2 years. I was also one of the only women working for him (I saw the resumes, it was because none were applying) and he was the best boss ever for so many other reasons.

    3. Jennifer M.*

      I had a job once where I was making $X after being at the company for 4 years and having been promoted from a Sr. Administrator to a Manager. It is a known fact that within that company (and many others in the industry) that if you want a big bump, you have to get it by coming from the outside since you won’t get it through a promotion which will top out at probably 10%. They usually made up for it with me by giving me decent bonuses (not that good compared to other private sector, but good for our industry). We were hiring for another manager position. They hired a white male with the same level of education and same # of years experience in our industry (though in different roles) as me. I’m a woman and depending on who you ask, I’m also a minority (half Asian/half Caucasian). He had been making a much higher salary at his last job, but it was on a gov’t contract that ended so the job no longer existed. He took a paycut to come to our company (more than he wanted, but less than the company wanted so given that both sides were equally unhappy, it was probably relatively fair). I also got an out of cycle $5K/yr bump (unsolicited by me since I didn’t know what he ultimately was hired at) to avoid any gender-based pay discrepancy.

  7. Temperance*

    I would be wary of New Manager, quite frankly. Do other women get promoted in your org, under this manager, or is his handpicked team all men? Does he tend to get together for lunches with Fergus and other men?

    I also don’t recommend that you do this, but I might be less than helpful to Fergus whenever I could be, within reason, because New Manager is looking for any reason to promote him over you. I would probably also start looking for a new job after you address the pay equity issues, because, frankly, your manager doesn’t sound like he’s in your corner.

    1. Random Lurker*

      I disagree with the advice to not be helpful.

      First – it isn’t Fergus’s fault for the discrepancy in pay. Seems misplaced at best, and childish at worst, to be less helpful to him than you would if you weren’t aware of the pay issue.

      Second – what an incredibly quick way to lose moral high ground! Not to mention, you would be setting up a scenario where you are not being a good teammate. You don’t want your performance and interaction with others to be called suspect if you want to make a claim here.

    2. SystemsLady*

      It is…certainly not encouraging that a female finance manager was the person shoved into HR, on top of that.

      (Nothing legally actionable there that I know of, but definitely annoying.)

      Don’t agree with the second part of this either.

      1. SystemsLady*

        (that is to say I agree with your first part, the second part was concurrence with the last responder)

    3. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

      Ahh, that’s the tricky thing – I am, to my knowledge, the only lady that works for this manager. There is another lady in a remote office that *might* work under him, but I’m unclear on the organizational structure there. She is also much newer to the company than I am, and in a totally different field. The teams he’s in charge of were all hired on by a different person than himself. I believe Fergus was the first hire he picked out on his own. (He also dragged his feet so long before hiring Fergus that we lost three applicants along the way.) He doesn’t tend to hang out with Fergus and the other men, but I think that’s more due to the way the office works than anything else. We all mostly do our own thing for lunch and such.

      I will say I did my best to be helpful to Fergus. I really wanted it to work out, all pay weirdness aside. (After all, it’s not his fault he was being paid differently than me – that’s up to New Manager.) You are right that it doesn’t sound (or feel!) like my manager’s in my corner. In fact, I think that’s exactly the right phrasing to use when I meet with him and HR Lady about it.

  8. Helen*

    Hmmmmm….let me guess as to who’s going to “rise to the top.” What a bunch of baloney.

    This OP has been working there a year and a half, and they have seen her work. Saying they are going to hire someone new and witness his work for 6 months and then give themselves the option of promoting that person says one of two things: Either they have legit concerns about OP’s work or ability to be a leader based on her actual performance in the past, which they should have communicated to her instead of giving her the runaround, or they do not want to hire a woman into the position. I can’t think of any other reason why they would do this.

    I think if I were in this position, and I hadn’t had any complaints about my performance or reason to think that I was unqualified to be the lead, I would request a meeting with my boss and frame it like this: You passed me over for a promotion, and hired someone else to be eligible for that promotion. That seems to me like you have reservations about my being in the Lead position. Do you have specific concerns about my work that you can share with me that affected your decisions about this? Because if not, this looks like a case of gender discrimination. When I found out that Fergus is being paid a salary, it seemed to be even more likely that gender discrimination was at play here, since I am paid at what I believe to be a lower rate for the exact same job. I understand that experience and performance play in to salaries and promotions, but I can’t see where that would be at play in this situation. What do you think?

    1. Temperance*

      YES. This reminds me of the letter from the woman who was essentially getting demoted so her boss’s pet, who was a man, could get her duties, which were more interesting than his.

      1. Miss Betty*

        I first misread this as the woman who was essentially getting demoted to her boss’s pet. Ouch. That’s some demotion!

  9. WhiteBear*

    I really hope OP sends us an update!!! Just to hear what excuses she is given or whether this is resolved.

  10. BenAdminGeek*

    Alison, wondering how this plays out in companies with rigid pay increase models? I’ve been in the situation where two women I hired from our customer service team were not being paid as much as people off the street (both men) because the company refused to increase pay by more than 10% even with a promotion or transfer.* The role had a salary band, but they were willing to put internal transfers in the role at lower than the base salary. Would that likely violate the EPA (large company, but the majority of internal transfers in my office were women, the majority of external hires were men)?

    *Leaving aside that this is a really crappy and demotivational policy, and is one of the major reasons I left OldJob. Especially since I was hiring manager but not allowed to determine salary or adjust it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not 100% sure since now we’re getting into real intricacies — but I would think that would indeed be a problem, because it’s having a disparate impact, even if it wasn’t the intent.

    2. Pari*

      A company practice that perpetuates gender based wage disparities is not a defense To an equal pay claim. Only seniority or job related education and skills or performance based awards are.

    3. Brett*

      A key piece in all of that is that women are being initially hired in lower roles than men. If this was not happening, if men and women were equally likely to be hired at higher and lower roles, there would be no gender disparity. That’s a pretty strong indication of actual discrimination as well as disparate impact.

  11. fposte*

    OP, you say “I know that as of December 1 we will legally be required to pay him at least $5,000 more than what I make yearly,” but that’s not true. They can also make him non-exempt, if he’s under the threshold. It also sounds like he may be currently misclassified and that he should be non-exempt same as you; if you ever make OT, he may actually be taking in less than you right now.

    It’s certainly possible that they’re paying him over the new threshold (or will be) and therefore there’s a significant discrepancy, and I definitely support inquiring about this. But given the fact that it sounds like he’d might be misclassified even then, it sounds like there may be weirdnesses within weirdnesses here.

    1. Rye-Ann*

      Yeah, my company just hired 2 new people a couple weeks ago, salaried. But I’m pretty sure they don’t make any more than I do, and some of my department is being converted to non-exempt come December 1. So I think they’re just converting everyone at once, even though it will be a bit weird for the new people.

      So maybe they’ll just change his exempt status. Seems silly to hire someone at one category only to have to switch them over within a couple months, but it is possible.

  12. Joshua*

    Pay disparity aside (because we don’t truly know that he does make more with the information provided – though it seems likely that he does…especially if the OP doesn’t work a full 40 hour week because of an appointment or something). Isn’t it also kind of icky feeling that he is salaried for the same job that someone is hourly? I thought that these determinations were not up to the company but based on federal guidelines…so how is it that he was arbitrarily determined to be a salaried worker?

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s my question. I mean, it could be that the OP could be classified as exempt as well-an employer is always free to treat an employee as non-exempt, it’s the exemption that has to meet legal standards–but then why the difference, and does it mean benefits differ for the two?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s just exempt/non-exempt that isn’t up to the company. But salaried/hourly totally is. (Except that if they treat you as exempt, they can’t pay you hourly. But they can choose to give a salary to someone who’s non-exempt.)

      1. smokey*

        I need to understand this part:

        “if they treat you as exempt, they can’t pay you hourly”.

        Does that mean you can’t be hourly and exempt?

        1. Mike C.*

          I saw your response below, but there’s nothing stopping a company from figuring out the hourly rate paid to a salaried employee and paying them overtime.

      2. LD*

        So I guess we are supposed to assume that Fergus is an exempt employee and not a salaried non-exempt? I didn’t see that clearly stated in the letter or in the response, just as the assumption both from the OP and the answer since Fergus doesn’t need to know how to complete a time-sheet? And that’s why the OP thinks or knows that to maintain exempt status Fergus will get a big salary bump? I’m a bit confused because those seem like assumptions and not necessarily facts from OP’s description.

        1. Hollygohardly*

          If he doesn’t have to fill out a time sheet they most likely are not paying him OT, meaning he will have to be making more than LW.

      3. Pari*

        That’s not quite accurate. An employer can choose to treat folks that qualify as exempt as non-exempt and pay them hourly and overtime. This happens with temps frequently. As long as they don’t try to treat them as both exempt and non exempt to their benefit. You just can’t treat non-exempt as exempt unless folks meet the definition. And they can pay exempt by the hour. They just can’t make the same wage deductions that they do for non exempt.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I should have said — they can’t pay you hourly if you’re exempt in the sense that they can’t lower your pay based on how many hours you worked that week. But they can pay you overtime if they want to.

          1. Pari*

            That’s true but I’m not sure everyone understands they can deduct hourly as long as they’re otherwise treating you as non-exempt. This is also the penalty the DOL may impose if you’re exempt and getting improper wage deductions. In other words if they’re improperly treating you as non exempt DOL can reclassify you from exempt to non exempt

  13. Anon 12*

    I’m not defending the outcome, but what if they negotiated higher with Fergus because he had some additional skills and experience that led them to believe he would contribute at a higher level?

    Also, it’s super dumb that a co-worker would be tasked with helping a new hire fill out a timesheet. That’s a manager’s job, for exactly this reason.

    OP should consider asking Manager person for a developmental meeting. What exactly would you need to see from me so that I am prepared to be fully considered for the lead position when it comes up? It’s entirely possible that there is something unsaid here (true or not) about performance and/or skills & competencies which lead them to believe she may not be the best candidate. Do your best to suss that out. you may get a nugget worth considering or you may have more ammunition for a pay disparity complaint when Manager has nothing to say.

  14. Kyrielle*

    Is it possible that they’re hiring him into the category they think they’ll move this role to, and OP’s classification and pay might also change by December? If that’s the case, could he have been hired at an equivalent salary now with a bump planned for December?

    Conversely, is it possible that this company with a partial HR department isn’t prepared for the new overtime rules and (especially if the call was made by this guy’s manager) hasn’t structured the pay the way OP thinks, and isn’t planning for the new overtime laws?

    It’s possible it’s sexism, it’s possible it’s a pay disparity that falls under the law, but – it also seems possible that they’re being paid in different ways but not terribly different amounts, under these two scenarios. I’d just be really cautious about how you phrase things when asking, and be ready for the (probably small, but maybe non-zero) possibility that someone says ‘what wage law change?’

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I admit I had this thought – maybe you’ll be reclassified at the deadline, and they got this guy in on the new system rather than making him switch. You don’t have the smoking gun here of knowing he’s actually making more than you are. I’d still bring it to someone’s attention and ask – politely – for an explanation. Then if I didn’t get a satisfactory explanation, I’d feel a lot less polite.

      1. Zahra*

        The OP could simply ask the new employee if they were brought in under the new FLSA requirements. It should be pretty straightforward, not too taboo-crossing and you’re not asking for the exact number they make. I would probably have the “with the focus on gender pay disparity” discussion with my coworker, with an emphasis on “let’s help each other when we think something isn’t fair”.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I think this could cause a lot of tension between co-worker and OP.
          If someone tried to ask me how my salary was classified because they wanted to make sure they were being treated fairly I would NOT want to get involved, especially as a new employee. Yes I want to be fair but I also think it’s up to OP and company, not up to Fergus, to examine and explore this. I don’t think even my hypothetical salary is anyone’s business.

          On another note, as a woman I have often gotten paid more than male peers due to negotiation and experience. When asked what I made I always just said “enough” and let it go; if they think they are getting paid too little it is up to them to go to HR and make it right.

          1. fposte*

            I also think that the employee might not know. A lot of people don’t even know if they’re exempt or non-exempt, let alone whether their categorization is in keeping with a planned legal change.

          2. Zahra*

            It’s definitely a “know your situation” case. Personally, I don’t mind showing mine if it makes you more comfortable showing yours. After all, how are we supposed to uncover pay disparity if we don’t talk salary with each other?

  15. Adonday Veeah*

    “I wouldn’t want to put you in that position just to see you fail”

    This sounds like a vote of no-confidence to me. You should sit down with your boss (who sounds like a weakling for not addressing this with you directly) and ask what issues she has with you. Take notes and fix them.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Medical science is making some amazing strides. A few years back I saw a human ear growing on the back of a mouse. It seems like anything is possible.

      2. Jadelyn*

        This is not just at you, Mike C., I’ve seen a few instances of that in this thread, but can we maybe not so much with the equating of genitals and gender? Trust me, pre/non-op trans women don’t benefit in employment situations by having a penis. If anything it makes gender discrimination worse by adding a big old helping of transmisogyny on top of it. Having a penis isn’t what would help the situation; being a man is what would (maybe) help the situation. Those are two separate things.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m not (and don’t) personally equating genitals and gender, I’m pointing out that the type of person who is going to hire/promote on this basis is going to hold a genital/gender standard.

      3. mazzy*

        So far no one is seriously analyzing this part. You can snark all you want, but none of us know why the boss said that. There could be a million different combinations of performance issues/limitations going on which could totally substantiate this comment

        1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

          I agree, there could be. If there are performance issues, however, New Manager has had a good six months to bring them to my attention. I’ve also asked Previous Manager (who knows my work better) for his opinion, and it basically boiled down to “You weren’t terribly confident at first, but you’ve really stepped up since the re-org and I think you’d do well now.” As a point of reference, both he and the last team lead are considered to be on the sales team now, but we all still work very closely together. So they both have lots of opportunity to see any weak spots I might have.

          So you’re absolutely right to point out that this could be a legitimate concern regarding my performance – but if it is, I’m having a hell of a time finding out what it is.

          1. Mazzy*

            Hi OP! My response was to Mike C’s “well OP can’t grow a p***” comment which i didn’t like because it is vulgar and makes alot of assumptions about your boss, and also because it basically would mean you’d have to leave your job. Not very constructive.

            Also, when people here say “performance issue” it doesn’t always mean that you’re doing something blatantly wrong or bad. It can simply having a shortcoming that is minor enough that your boss doesn’t see the need to even raise it, until time for a promotion comes around and they start analyzing things more closely. So please don’t feel bad when I mentioned performance.

            Good luck!

            1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

              No worries – I don’t feel bad at all, I really do think you make a valid point and it’s something I’ve thought of many times myself. I responded mostly to give more context to the factors I’ve tried to eliminate in figuring out why this whole thing has been such a hassle. I’ve definitely asked myself if I’m being entitled, asking too much, ignoring my weak spots, etc. I hope my last comment didn’t come off angry – not at all the case!!

              Fact of the matter is, Manager doesn’t manage. I’ve come to learn that he didn’t even want the position, but was basically pushed into it by his boss – “Manage these teams or else.” (He oversees a couple of other teams – none with more than two or three people each.) So it’s pretty common knowledge around the office that he’s doing a terrible job of managing, but there’s a kind of helpless what-can-we-do attitude about it.

              It’s also been recognized by peers of his that yeah, he is kinda sexist. I pointed out to HR Lady that I don’t think he would have said the “just to see you fail” bit if he were talking to a man, and she agrees. (That’s just one example – he’s judgy and patronizing to the women in the office about other stuff too.)

              So, the sentiment Mike C. was expressing definitely rings true for me, given the full context of working with this guy (and Fergus, who was his own brand of misogynist and shitty). To be honest, it made me laugh out loud. Like, loud enough to draw the attention of coworkers. Totally understand if you disagree with it, and totally respect that… but I kinda loved it.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Yeah to be honest, although I am 100% behind investigating the sex discrimination angle of this, my first read was the the boss does not feel that OP is qualified for the Team Lead position. It stings, and not getting promoted – or even seemingly strongly considered – when there’s a clear opening above you that you would be a natural fit for, means to me that it’s time to start brushing up your resume. Not at all downplaying the other aspect (boss may well be a jerk and a misogynist, and you’re right to investigate a peer who seems to make more than you) but big picture I’m also concerned about the signals OP is receiving about their future with this company.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s one of the nice things about the “help me understand this disparity” question — it’s not going in guns ablazing; it’s asking for more info that might help her understand it it’s something like you’re describing.

      2. Mike C.*

        If that’s the case, why did the manager first say, “Oh yeah, we’re going to interview you next week”?

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          I read it that a fair amount of time, perhaps months, passed between that initial assurance and the later lack of enthusiasm for the OP’s candidacy – time in which the boss may have changed their impression of OP, or maybe simply after interviewing some strong candidates they rethought OP’s promotion (that’s happened to me in fact, when I was hiring. I assumed an internal person was a lock, but then I was really impressed with external interviews and realized they were much stronger). I actually think the fact they suggested they’d promote OP originally may indicate *less* sexism – if the boss was never going to promote someone with ladyparts, you’d think he would have passed her over from the start. However, I admit that it’s really aside the point of the OP’s complaint, which is that someone was hired into an identical position as her but is (possibly) making more, or is at the very least salaried while she is hourly.

    2. PK*

      I wondered the same as well. It seems pretty obvious that your manager isn’t confident in you being able to do the job. Hard to say the reason without more info (although the possibility of gender discrimination is definitely still there).

      1. Mike C.*

        Same question as above – why did the manager first say, “Oh yeah, we’re going to interview you next week”?

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I think there is a chance they thought “ok, Susie is ready for this” and after more observation realized she wasn’t.

          That has happened to me in the past – I thought someone was ready for a promotion because their work was above average and they had been at the company awhile. Almost a “well, he’s put his time in” default type thinking. Paying closer attention, thought, to critical thinking, time management and peer interaction I realized for them to be successful as a manager they needed more time to develop. I went to external candidates & found a much better fit.

          However, in my situation I did NOT tell the person that I felt they were ready and planned to interview them.

          1. NonProfit Nancy*

            Sounds like both of us independently reached the same explanation. OP, you know your own situation best!

    3. Collarbone High*

      I’m side-eyeing many things in this letter, but that sentence is making me hear Cmdr. Riker yell “Shields up! Red alert!”

      Either it’s incredibly condescending, like when men literally take heavy-looking objects out of my hands (Home Depot and the like are the worst for this, I guess I don’t look like I can carry a can of paint), or the rest of this sentence is “and you will fail, because I have no intention of promoting you.”

      Agree with other commenters — approach your boss about this and ask why he thinks you would fail. The answer will either help you increase your chances of promotion, or tell you that it’s time to look for a new job.

  16. caryatis*

    “Lady-type person”—ugh. What’s wrong with “I’m a woman”? And it’s a bit suspicious that her very first thought on not being interviewed is that it must be about gender. Maybe she’s just a poor performer.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Because the only time sexism can be real is when it’s so blatant and obvious that it can’t be questioned (like a boss announcing he will never ever promote a woman), otherwise it is you who are the true sexist!

    1. Temperance*

      We don’t nitpick word choice around these parts, and we take LWs at their word.

      Why is it your first thought that it’s “suspicious” that a woman would see unfair treatment and detect sexism as the reason for the unfair treatment? Because you don’t think that sexism exists, or because you’ll easily find 1,000 other reasons?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey, please don’t nitpick word choices by letter-writers! (See the commenting guidelines linked just above the comment box.)

      She thinks it’s about gender because of the full context of all the weirdness from her boss, and because a male counterpart doing her exact same job is getting paid differently than she is. Why is that suspicious?

    3. Kelly L.*

      “Lady-type person” is kind of a tongue-in-cheek way people sometimes talk on the internet.

    4. ad astra*

      It seems possible enough that the OP is interpreted by the public to be a “lady-type person” but is in fact biologically male or intersexed or perhaps identifies as nonbinary or something of the like. That would make “I’m a woman” inaccurate. But, for the purposes of this letter, it matters less how OP identifies herself and more how the rest of the world identifies her.

      Or maybe this is just OP’s style of writing. But I think there’s potential value in a term like “lady-type person,” at least in an informal setting.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        I believe it may also come from “person first” language (like “I’m a person with autism” rather than “I’m autistic” – the latter seems like that is your entire identity, where as the former indicates that this is just one thing about you. People who never have to worry about such things can mock it if they want to – and do, case in point – but it resonates with some people who don’t want to be identified with just one trait, particularly one that is used to denigrate a group.

      2. fposte*

        It’s a pretty common style of locution in a lot of the internet that doesn’t, as far as I’ve seen, indicate any exception to the birth assignment gender. It’s not my fave for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think it really means anything beyond the corner of the internet somebody hangs in.

      3. anon for this*

        Yeah, I’m a nonbinary person who does exactly this sort of thing for exactly the reason you state; sometimes I do want to align myself with the female gender because that’s how I’m seen and treated and that has real consequences for my life, but nevertheless “I’m a woman” remains inaccurate and deeply uncomfortable. We are indeed out there… and honestly, when you’re trying to navigate that particular line, having your word choice re: gender interrogated is just really obnoxious.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      I read it twos ways: a flowery/tongue in cheek way of saying she is a woman or she’s a transperson. Although if it was the latter, OP would have mentioned there’s more at play then gender discrimination. Either way: Meh.

  17. Bobbo*

    My friend in this exact same situation, except he is a man and his new coworker is a woman.

    Will the EEOC be able to help him?

  18. TMA*

    I’m curious what would happen in my situation. Dude is at the same level as me, but has more years of experience; however, I am the project lead for several projects that I work on with him and few other people. Dude gets paid more than me.

    Should I be getting paid more because I’m the project lead? Or does his extra years of experience (probably about 10 more than me) negate that?

    1. CAA*

      Since you’re not doing the exact same work and you do have different experience levels, it’s very difficult to say whether you’re being wronged here.

      Also, it’s not necessarily true that the project lead is more valuable to the team than other team members and automatically gets paid more. Usually that happens naturally because the lead role tends to go to the person with more experience, but not always. For example, when I was a new manager I was quite young and I routinely had much older senior and consulting engineers reporting to me and earning a lot more than I made.

  19. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m not 100% certain that what’s going on here is sexism, even though it is resulting in a woman being paid less than a man to do the same job.

    The reason I’m not sure about it is that the manager is on the new side, and a re-org was involved. It’s very normal in re-orgs for the new person to want to “clean house” by replacing legacy employees with new ones — either ones the new boss has worked with before and are comfortable with, or at least those who show in their interviews that they’re in line with the new boss’s working style. Interviewing two men for the slot? Maybe sexist. (If there were, say, six candidates and all were men, I’d go from “maybe sexist” to “sexist.” But that’s a pretty small sample size.)

    This is not to say that this is good or fair treatment, or that OP can’t or shouldn’t try to get the situation equalized. But I do think there might be something else going on in terms of the boss’s motivation. (Having been through a couple of re-orgs in the past five years, I admit I’m looking at things through that lens.)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Doesn’t the intent change how you evaluate this boss in your mind, though? Intentionally or subconsciously thinking women are less qualified than men = boor I don’t want to work with. Change agent who wants to remake a department in his image = maybe I can work with him, depending on how I fit into that vision.

        1. Mike C.*

          I know my standards are weird compared to many here, but I’d still focus on the fact that there’s still a pay differential with no business reason to justify it. That makes me think the new manager is a cheapskate. Add the fact that it’s based on gender lines and things go downhill from there.

          Sure, there is sunlight between “someone who didn’t bother to consider gender differences with pay” and “someone who hates women”, but this is the sort of thing that managers should understand. The law in question is so old that it was mentioned in an episode of Mad Men.

          So yes, there is a difference, but I see so much going on here that I don’t find the difference all that significant.

          1. Mike B.*

            We don’t know that there’s no business reason to justify it, though. OP either doesn’t know or hasn’t disclosed Fergus’s background, and hasn’t disclosed her own performance history.

            My department just hired a man for an entry-level position. He comes in with an internship in our counterpart department at a competitor; while he’s going to need both general mentoring and training in our systems and process, he’s already familiar with our industry and will need much less hand-holding than most people in that position. We’re also interviewing a woman for a comparable spot, and while they both appear to be very intelligent, she’d be coming in fresh out of college and without a lot of experience in functions related to our role. I’d be surprised if her offer weren’t a few thousand less than his, and there’s a totally defensible case for it.

            Similarly (but unrelated to sexism), there are two open senior management positions in my department. There’s a manager at my level who would on paper be an obvious choice for either (he actually has many years of experience at the higher level; his willingness to take a step down should have been a bit more of a red flag than it was), but he’s performed so poorly in his current role that he’ll be lucky to remain employed here for the rest of the year. Another manager has done an outstanding job but has only nine months of management experience; I doubt she’s had any conversations about another potential promotion.

            I think it’s very likely that this is sexism at work, but the story outlined by OP is also consistent with her and Fergus being a mediocre/insufficiently seasoned current employee and an impressive new hire, respectively. What I’d like to know is (a) whether Fergus has more than OP’s 18 months of experience, and (b) whether OP has been well regarded by her colleagues other than the new manager.

            1. Zahra*

              As mentioned by AAM, experience doesn’t factor unless it affects performance. Seniority in the organization can be used as a justification. (See

              OP has mentioned that her previous manager and other colleagues who work with her couldn’t find anything that would prevent her from being a good Team Lead and actually are all for her being the TL. Especially since the Fergus debacle (read the OP’s updates: Ctrl+F “Not Fergus’ Boss (OP)”).

        2. nonymous*

          perhaps the boss is not sexist (no intent) but there is disparate impact along gender lines (which is prohibited under the Equal Pay Law, if I’m reading the NYMag response correctly)

          1. Mike C.*

            Sexism (as well as racism or bigotry in general) does not require intent, which is why it’s so insidious.

            1. Hotel GM Guy*

              “Sexism (as well as racism or bigotry in general) does not require intent”

              That’s a silly opinion to hold.

              Running afoul of labor laws doesn’t require intent. Being personally bigoted does.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That’s really not true. One of the reasons that sexism and racism are so insidious is that even well intentioned people have unconscious biases.

                1. Hotel GM Guy*

                  But are unconscious biases really indicative of bigotry?

                  For example: Let’s say you’re stopped at a traffic and there’s a homeless guy panhandling on the side of the road. Do you lock your doors? Maybe. Let’s say that if you do, you’re biased in that you think homeless panhandlers are more likely to rob you. Ok, great. You’re biased and recognize that.

                  But as far as bigotry goes, it’s an order of magnitude greater than holding a bias. Bigotry is basically intolerance of something. It’s the difference between saying “Homeless people are more likely to rob me” and saying “I hate that homeless people live in my area”. It seems like intent is the key difference between the two.

                2. Mike B.*

                  I think Hotel GM Guy has a point here. I don’t think it’s productive to go straight to “sexism,” “racism,” and “bigotry” when it comes to unconscious biases–if you call someone a bigot, they’re going to angrily (and sincerely) deny it, and that’s the end of the conversation. There may be some truth to it, but if they feel attacked they aren’t going to be open to self-reflection.

                  Specific instances of discrimination, though, leave objective evidence that’s somewhat harder to argue away–point out that the new manager declined to interview the experienced female candidate for team lead and instead interviewed two men, then offered one of them considerably more money than his female counterpart, and it might dawn on him that he’s at the very least given the appearance of impropriety.

        3. Cleopatra Jones*

          >>Change agent who wants to remake a department in his image = maybe I can work with him, depending on how I fit into that vision.

          If remaking the department in his image means hiring all males only, isn’t that unconscious bias? Which IMO is worse because he can continue to justify in his mind, why he’s denying women promotions and pay increases.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Again, if he’d interviewed six people and all were men, I’d draw the conclusion that he’s interested in hiring only men. But he interviewed two and hired one, so I maintain that his motivation could be something other than conscious or unconscious *gender* bias.

            It could very well be conscious bias against people who have a history of working at the company (“she’ll be set in her ways, I want to hire someone who thinks like I do, instead”).

            1. Anna*

              But it is also a bit weird that the only woman he indicated would be interviewed did not get interviewed and was given a raft of changing reasons why that was. Even if it was unconscious, it’s not a good look. And “thinks like I do” or “someone I can work with” is often times code used to discriminate. “Not a cultural fit,” is another one that can raise flags depending on who is using it and how.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Yes, it could be. Anything’s possible. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and paddles like a duck, there’s still a chance it could be a very sophisticated duck decoy.

  20. HR Jeanne*

    If they are doing the same job at the same level, why is one exempt the other is non-exempt? This is decided by law, not by the business. You don’t get to a certain “level” and become exempt. It is based specifically on job duties outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I did wonder if her position was going to be converted to non-exempt with the December deadline, and he was just started off that way for clarity’s sake. She should follow up on this, because otherwise I agree it’s an issue.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — except if they both qualify for exemption, there’s nothing stopping them from treating the OP as non-exempt anyway. They just can’t do it the other way around.

    3. CAA*

      Since you have to meet both the duties test and the salary test to qualify as exempt, it’s possible to meet the duties test and not the salary test. In this case, getting a raise can put you in a position where your employer can reclassify you without changing your duties.

      I have seen this happen in California, where the computer software professionals exemption has a fairly high salary requirement but an easy-to-meet duties test. I don’t think this is a smart thing for companies to do and I have lobbied my employer to create a separate junior engineer title specifically for those who are non-exempt, but so far I am losing that argument.

  21. JayemGriffin*

    Oh wow. This… I might be in a very similar boat, OP. My coworker and I have the same job description, same job title, and same duties on paper – although in practice, I have more responsibilities. I have three years seniority on him, more experience with our software, more training from the software provider, and an MA (he doesn’t have any kind of degree.) He makes a LOT more than I do. Like, if we eliminated the pay disparity between us, we could hire another person. I thought it was shitty, but I didn’t realize it might be illegal.

    1. Cordelia Naismith*

      You and male coworker have the same job, but you have more seniority — and he gets paid significantly more than you do? You might want to consider making an EEOC complaint.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Unless he is the sole thread to keeping an important customer and that’d pass as being a full salary’s raise’s worth of merit discrepancy (which I doubt from what you’re saying), there is no way that situation as described passes any test that makes it OK for him to get paid more than you, let alone an entire third worker’s salary’s worth (!?).

      Have you ever brought it up to your boss? How did they even try to justify that?

      [Insert annoyance at people who perpetuate the myth that valid EEOC complaints are either explicitly stated bias, or the complainant whining about not getting something]

      1. JayemGriffin*

        :shrug: He did negotiate – pretty hard, too. I just figured that negotiation was included with differences in skills or seniority as a legal reason to pay someone differently.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s not. And hey, you know that hard negotiation works! Makes sense for you to go sit down with your boss and point out all the reasons your pay should be brought up to speed.

    3. ZVA*

      Oof. This sucks. I hope you’ll investigate further and take action if you think it’s the right move—it sounds like from everything that’s been said in the comments and Alison’s answer that this is illegal…

      1. Emma*

        Because they wish ill on each other and are subtly trying to curse the other. Or at least that’s why my grandma told me I should never use my left hand to shake hands with someone…

  22. voyager1*

    I see two issues, pay and team lead

    I am only going to comment about the later since I think it is the more pressing and urgent issue and can determine if the pay issue is worth pursuing OR frankly looking for a new job would be a better route.

    I would go talk to previous manager Since he/she is still with the company. Find out if the new manager even spoke to them or anything, since frankly old manager is really going to be the only person to know if you are actually qualified.

    All the places I have worked where one goes for a new and higher job posting there is required paperwork that management has to do, including recommendations from prior

    Hopefully the old manager will open up truthfully with you.

    1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

      That’s a really good point. I actually did talk to Previous Manager and some other colleagues when this was all going down, to see if they could give me some feedback or potential reasons why I might not be a good fit. It’s a small office and these are all folks I trust to give me a straight answer. Previous Manager was the only one who could think of anything, and his opinion was that I used to lack confidence in my work and relied too much on answers from others rather than taking a stab at it myself. Which is totally fair. That said, he did recognize that the time he was talking about was my first six months on the job – and this is a job with a pretty steep learning curve. He did say that he thought I was qualified now.

      I’ve been told by a number of colleagues and Previous Manager that they’ve talked with New Manager and told him that they strongly believe I’m needed in the lead position (especially after the disaster Fergus turned out to be). He doesn’t seem to be willing to listen to them, though.

      1. voyager1*

        Wow thanks for the reply!

        Okay with that info, frankly, it is time to move on. I was in this same exact boat a few years back.

        I personally moved on to a job that I love and got a huge raise, and looking back I am still a little bitter but at the same time very happy where I am.

        The question is now the pay gap. If you think you can push that while
        looking for a job, I would seriously consider it.

        1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

          Yeah, that totally makes sense. It sucks – other than New Manager, I get along really well with everyone I work with. We’re a close-knit little group, we all work great together, and for the most part we’ve got each others’ backs as much as possible. I worry that would be hard to find in another job – not to mention that this job is very flexible about the ways I choose to dress and the colors I choose to put in my hair :) The thought of having to look and be more “professional” kills me a little inside.

          Which, I suppose, is all to say that it seems like I ought to at least give him a chance before I blow town. He may be a misogynistic shitlord (I was not the first or the last to have this suspicion) and a horrible manager, but if I can convince him to just leave the service desk to me and pay me accordingly, it seems like we could reach an equilibrium.

          *sigh* and while we’re wishing, I’d like a pony.

  23. Roscoe*

    So I’m curious in this how many people have to be affected. It’s really surprising that degrees and experience aren’t considered reasons for there to be a pay discrepancy. I mean, in this situation it seems a bit more cut and dried. But is it really the case that if there are 4 people (men and women) in a dept making the same amount, then someone comes in with an advanced degree or something and is offered more, that that would be problematic?

    1. Mike C.*

      They are considered reasons for a pay discrepancy, so long as they directly apply to the job.

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure. But theoretically someone with an MBA isn’t necessarily a better person in sales solely because of the degree, but I can see paying someone more because they have it.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Why, though? If it’s not adding value as an employee, why pay someone more because of a degree?

          1. Aurion*

            My guess is that they do want the MBA-er to perform additional tasks but they haven’t gotten around to it yet, or maybe the MBA-er is bringing something intangible to the table (industry contacts, etc.) even if the daily duties are the same.

            The fact that negotiation exists means that pay is almost never cut-and-dried and equal across the board, which is really unfortunate. So oftentimes the reasons for pay discrepancy is really nebulous.

            1. Gandalf the Nude*

              But in that situation, you’re not paying them more because of the degree; you’re paying them more because they’re taking on additional duties or because they negotiated. All else being the same, why would someone pay more just because of a degree if it wasn’t adding actual value to the position?

              1. Aurion*

                In the case of additional duties, I’m thinking more “oh, we want Wakeen to take XYZ duties on eventually because of Shiny MBA” but XYZ never comes to fruition. But I’m reaching a bit there.

                I pictured the MBA used as a negotiating point. Since reasons for negotiating more pay can range from “my old salary is better, so you better exceed it or I won’t walk” to “I just want more money”, an MBA can just be another reason in such a list even if it’s not a particularly good reason on its own. It’s essentially “I want more money (because of my MBA)”, but the reason in the bracket is almost irrelevant. It just comes down to whether the employer and employee can meet in the middle.

                (I have no idea whether any of that made sense out of my head.)

          2. Roscoe*

            Because that’s how its been done? I mean just being honest, there are a lot of jobs that require a college degree, but the degree has nothing to do with how good you are at the job. So I can definitely see a company paying a 22 year old college grad more than a 19 year old who never went to college. In American society, a degree is seen as some kind of proof that you can stick with something and have a certain level of responsibility. So higher degrees kind of have more prestige. I’m not saying its right or wrong, but its the way things have been done for a while.

            1. Gandalf the Nude*

              “Because that’s how it’s been done” is never a good reason in and of itself. Tradition is not a reason; it’s a history lesson.

              Again, if the degree has nothing to do with how good you’d be at the job, why is it factoring into the salary? I could see using the degree as a reason to hire the 22 year old college grad over the 19 year old HS grad, but if you’re hiring both, and the degree has no bearing on the job, I don’t see why it should affect the salary all on its own.

              1. Roscoe*

                I guess I get what you are saying, but I also can see paying someone more with an advanced degree since they have done that work. Back when I just had a bachelors degree I wouldn’t begrudge a company for paying a new employee more if they had a masters, even if we were doing the same job

                1. Gandalf the Nude*

                  I think there would have to be something specific to the degree to make me consider it in the salary. I mean, if you and a new employee in entry level accounting roles both had BAs in Business, but the new employee had an MFA in Dramaturgy, would you really not side-eye your employer for paying them more for that higher degree? There’s nothing in that course of study that would predict a better accountant and warrant a higher salary.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Doing a work to get a degree is the individual’s choice. If the skills gained by that degree are relevant to the job, by all means, pay more for those SKILLS. But no, nobody inherently deserves to be paid more just because they did extra work that wasn’t related to the job.

              2. neverjaunty*

                It’s also “been done” that married men with children were paid more than single men or women because “he has a family to support”, but that’s neither morally right nor legal.

        2. Mike C.*

          I think we’re talking at cross-purposes here. Differences in education are considered valid reasons for having a pay discrepancy. In your MBA example, there are tons of reasons why an MBA would apply to a sales job and there wouldn’t be an issue for paying them more for having one. At the lab I used to work at, the scientists who signed off on final reports all have PhDs, even though a typical lab rat did most of the work.

          My only caveat would be that if similar employees make similar gains in education that they be offered a similar premium.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not quite right though — the law only considers education a reason for a pay disparity if it actually changes the quality or quantity of work produced.

            1. Mike C.*

              Maybe the MBA example is bad, but I’m not seeing how my example of a PhD* in a lab signing off on reports/analyses didn’t fit the “higher quality” definition. You also have situations where the “additional quality” comes in the form of, “fulfills government or private regulatory requirements” even if the product at hand isn’t materially different.

              * This was food safety, so if we’re talking about mold, the PhD was in mycology, etc. Directly relevant.

  24. Jules*

    Here is my 2 cents.

    Here is a possible scenario. He is paid exempt because your position is made exempt and come December 1, they will increase your pay and make you exempt. Most employer will hire new people at the new exemption status and change everyone else November 30th (or around that time). Role exemption is not something an employer can decide on employee basis. If the role is exempt, everyone MUST be exempt or the company risks the exemption. (with exceptions of PT employees).

    OTOH, the promotion. Your new manager went from ‘you are interviewing’ to ‘don’t want you to fail’. The conversation you should be having with him (again your mile may vary) is, what happened between then and now? As a new manager, he might think you were a stand up gal ready to take the lead role but as he worked with you longer, he saw some spots where you need working on in order to be successful at this role or he’s getting feedback from around you that makes him think you might not succeed in this role. If you are wise, you’d go to him asking, how can I move from where I am today to the role I want in 6 months. Can he be specific? What are the measures. Now the reason why I say this is, while there are conscious/unconscious bias at workplace, you will get a better chance at understanding what is at play when you ask direct questions about the role and about your performance vs. ‘Hey, am I not getting the jobs because the lack of manhood?’ Plus, by asking specific role related measures, he has to committ to his benchmark and if he did promote the new guy later and he is not as qualified or doesn’t do as well as you. You have room to file with DOL or find a lawyer. Ok, I am kidding. But you can hold him accountable for why he promoted the other guy. Chances are, he will think really hard about promoting a guy when it’s clear he is not as good as you for the role’s fit, because you had ask specific requirements and how can you reach there.

    I have other thoughts about Equal Pay but that is for another day :)

    1. Engineer Woman*

      I agree as well. Going back and asking for specific metrics because you want to be the “one who rises to the top in 6 months” is the right way to go.

  25. TheCupcakeCounter*

    Maybe I am misunderstanding the new law but her only reason for thinking he is making the $5K more than her is because the new law says that is the threshold to be considered exempt. Is she certain he is exempt? Could he be exempt now and will then move to non-exempt when the new law kicks in? And doesn’t the new law really only kick in when OT is involved?
    For the record I agree that there is some shady stuff going on with New Manager and OP probably is right but I’m not sure if just the knowledge that he is salary vs hourly is enough to stick her neck out over directly with her manager. I think the safe route would be to keep trying to get HR person involved focusing on the new law and how Fergus’ salary status could cause an unintended wage gap for the same position and how that would leave the company open for non-compliance with the Equal Pay Act. I would also look into other internal and external opportunities.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I agree there’s an assumption here that could bite OP if she goes after this too hard without all the facts. You don’t know for sure yet that he’s being paid more than you, just that your status seems to be different currently. I think you could ask about that, but I wouldn’t go in guns blazing just yet.

    2. designbot*

      Exactly. We only know that OP is hourly and Fergus is salaried, we don’t even know if he’s currently exempt. He may be salaried non-exempt. He may even be salaried and make right around the amount OP makes, it’s just a different payment structure.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        Or, as some have noted above, they may be planning to change OPs classification when the new rules go into effect in December.

        1. anonderella*

          I’m still really, really dissuaded by this argument though. How can you get away with still paying different amounts to the two employees in question, by saying ‘Well we plan to do it later.’?
          How long would this have to go on before they are, in fact, violating Equal Pay? A month? 6? A year?

          1. designbot*

            oh I could definitely still see an argument that they’re violating equal pay, but that would at least mean they had honest and logical intentions.
            BUT, again, we do not actually know that a pay discrepancy exists. If I was OP I would want to know more as well, but a salaried and an hourly employee can in fact be paid the same, or close enough to the same to not make it A Thing. All that salary vs. hourly represents is a different mechanism for distribution–without knowing the rates, we don’t know if it’s anything more than that.

            1. designbot*

              Gah, wish I could edit. I was going to say in fact in my field if two people were hired with the same stated salary but one was hourly and the other salaried, the hourly employee would surely wind up making more than the salaried, so we’d all be jealous of them!

    3. SystemsLady*

      I’d agree, but it sounds to me like the HR person basically confirmed to OP it is the case that Fergus will getting paid more. (though she didn’t tell OP what his salary was)

  26. Student*

    The boss doesn’t respect your work and has already decided you are unsuitable for the team lead position (“…just to see you fail”). Somebody else was hired into your same position with substantially different conditions.

    You need to move jobs if you want to advance your career. You aren’t being taken seriously here, and that’s unlikely to change. That’s not based on speculative gender biases, that’s based on cold, hard facts you have in hand. Maybe gender bias is the reason for those facts – maybe not.

    I am sympathetic to your concern, but this kind of mental what-if game on gender bias gets you nothing and nowhere, given your particulars. Gender bias is only something to invoke when there is a concrete issue that you want a concrete solution to, and you are willing to risk your current employment over it – (1) because it’s an explosive charge likely to backfire on you, regardless of the merits (2) because it’s very hard to prove (3) because it will not often get you the results you want even when it is the root cause of a problem; many men and some women persistently refuse to acknowledge it and want to avoid mention of it more than they want to address it. You can spin your wheels, wasting political capital, time, and money on a gender bias charge to get what you want and probably just get shut out. Or, you can work harder to try to prove you’re much better than men around you so that it’s very hard to overlook you, seek a different job with someone who will take you seriously, and be more aggressive in pursuit of your career goals – and possibly get what you want.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      This is very wrongheaded. Telling women they just need to suck it up and work twice as hard as men is offensive. I have gone to my boss with the objection that I was being underpaid relative to others at my level – I didn’t say men, but I meant men – and my boss reviewed it, agreed, and gave me a raise.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes. Telling her to get out of a workplace where she isn’t respected and won’t advance? Good advice. Telling her to work so hard and brilliantly that those silly men just can’t fail to see how awesome she is? Awful advice, and it was awful in my mother’s day (and probably wasn’t new when she heard it, either.)

        1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

          Yes. Not only because it’s unfair for a woman to have to meet a higher standard than a man for the same respect and pay, but also because in situations like this “so brilliant they can’t fail to see how awesome she is” often is a bar that shifts higher and higher as you approach it and you will never be quite good enough.

      2. Jaguar*

        It’s ambiguous, but it’s possible to read Student’s post (as I did) that the “men” in “prove you’re much better than men around you” refers to the OP’s specific circumstances of working for men and not a generalized women vs men message. If you read it that way, the advice is not gendered – a man could work harder to prove themselves as well.

        I don’t like the advice because it advises people to avoid battles that probably should be fought (although, correctly identifies that those battles can hurt the individual as well, so people shouldn’t be expected to fight them if they choose not to) and I don’t like the work extra hard when your superiors have proven they don’t deserve that effort. But I didn’t read Student’s post as a guide for all women when dealing with all men.

        1. Anna*

          Student’s advice is terrible and I suspect the “get out of where you’re not respected” is basically telling the OP not to make waves. They go on to say that gender bias should only be invoked if you have a concrete issue with a concrete solution in mind and that’s absolute bullshit. It’s making me angry, it’s such bullshit. Basically everything Student says is to shut up and deal because there will be no good outcome and the person bringing it up will only end up hurting for it


          1. mazzy*

            How is “get out of where your not respected” BS advice? We see stories in the open threads of people getting new jobs for basically this reason, and it usually

    2. ZVA*

      Telling women to work twice as hard as men just to be noticed or to quit their jobs instead of raising perfectly legitimate concerns about gender discrimination is awful, unnecessarily fatalistic, and misogynistic advice. It puts all the onus on LW, rather than her company, to change, and mindsets like yours are exactly what prevents such change from happening. She doesn’t need to be “much better” than the men around her. The company needs to treat her and the men equally. Period.

      (Not to mention the fact that there is a concrete issue that she wants a concrete solution to! She’s getting paid less than a man for the same work and she wants equal pay…)

      1. slick ric flair*

        That’s really not what the comment said.

        I understand we have to take letter writers at their word, but when their words include that the manager expects to see them fail, and that they are still relatively junior in their careers, you can’t expect to be promoted just because there is an opening above you in an org chart. If she wants to advance her career, the most straightforward way to do so would be to look elsewhere

        1. ZVA*

          The LW isn’t “expecting to be promoted.” Nothing in the letter indicated that. She wants at the very least to understand why her boss went from “we’ll interview you next week!” to “I expect you to fail,” and she wants to be paid the same as her male coworkers for doing the same work.

    3. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

      “Or, you can work harder to try to prove you’re much better than men around you so that it’s very hard to overlook you…”

      Not being snarky here, I promise, but that is almost exactly what the company GM said when I brought the issue of my application to him. It was essentially presented as a carrot to get me to do the work without having to give me the promotion.

      I think I mentioned this in another response – but this is the same line that has been given to several of my other coworkers. All of them ended up doing the work of two or more people, for a number of years, getting constant promises that the promotion they wanted was “right around the corner.” All of them are women.

      There is a guy in the office who was in a very similar situation to mine: the team lead left, he’d been with the company maybe a year or two (can’t quite remember), and he applied for the team lead position. He’s a team lead now. When I asked him about his experience with it, the answer boiled down to “I asked for it. And then I got it.”

      I know one anecdote is not enough to cry foul, but compared to my experience and the experience of other women who wanted promotions in the office, it does smell juuuust a little fishy.

      1. Zahra*

        Oh, yikes! If you can get this in writing, it’s worth gold for you and all the women who were promised a promotion was just around the corner. It’s hard evidence you can put before the EEOC.

  27. Lady Phoenix*

    I am HOPING that your new manager is simply short-sighted that will snap out of it in a time.

    HOWEVER, it is definitely a good move to keep an eye on him. Should, over time, he fail to fix this situation and essentially leave you at the very bottom and give you no reason as to why (or worse yet, in retaliation for demanding a change in your pay), then you are better off jumping this sinking ship before things get real ugly.

    And when I mean “some time”, I mean somewhere between maybe a timespace of a year to a year and a half. By then, your “new” manager won’t be “new” and should know how everything should be run. If he doesn’t, then you’ll know that he’s just gonna crash this ship.

    Also, what the flying fukenwaggle does “I don’t want to see you fail” mean? Is this his way of saying, “You’re not fit to lead” or “You’re a woman and therefore can’t lead.” That phrase sounds like a possible red flag to me that you should record, in case this guy does turn out to be a misogynistic arsepot.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Honestly, I don’t see anything gendered in that comment ( just as a counterpoint lest OP be led astray by our collective vehemence) and don’t see it as a silver bullet. It means he’s not confident she will succeed as manager. It doesn’t, on its face, say why.

      1. Lady phoenix*

        Except this phrasing is just so mean to say, especially after saying for the lobgest “Oh, sure, give me a week.”

        Plus, with all the additional BS that has been added, i can only infer that something rotten really is going on.

  28. Joanna*

    I’m in a similar situation of having a contract type with worse pay and benefits than colleuges doing the same work, although I’m not sure it’s gendered as there is at least one guy with the bad contract.

    What I wish I’d known when starting to work this out is to not trust assurances that they’re working on it or investigating without a clear time frame. There’s no end to the things they can work on or investigate if they benefit from stalling the process m

  29. Juli G.*

    What’s the definition of “equal pay”? OP threw out a $5,000 figure, which in a role that’s under 50K is going to be over 10% difference – significant. If we’re talking a salary over 125k, $5,000 isn’t as significant.

    Anyone have any experience?

    1. neverjaunty*

      $5K is significant. It’s significant enough that the company isn’t saying “Aw, just pay Jane $5K more, that’s pocket change!”

      1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

        I see what Juli G. is saying – and if I were personally making $125k, I’d feel super silly making a fuss about $5k. I actually felt silly about it anyway until Juli here pointed out that that is a 10% difference.

        Can confirm, $5k is significant at my $42k level. Although whether or not it’s pocket change for the company would depend on whose pocket it’s going into. $5k for all the new execs they just hired? Pocket change. Christmas bonus. Toilet paper, maybe. $5k for the customer service monkey? Are you sure you’ve really earned it? We’re freezing raises this year (because we have to make sure the new execs are paid appropriately, literally they said this to us) so you’re really going to have to give us a compelling case why you deserve it.

        This is where I usually leave off with words and communicate entirely in gifs of explosions and dumpster fires.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          OP, don’t know if you’re going to see this or not, but I just want to say…if you’re not a regular commenter, I hope you become one. I enjoy your way with words. Or gifs.

          1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

            Oh staaaawp :D

            I do read here quite regularly… usually on my lunch break, at my desk, in point of fact. Maybe I should de-lurk a little here and there. :)

  30. BananaPants*

    Welcome to my world. I’m a female engineer in a very male-dominated industry. Maybe 4 years ago my then-manager told me that my male coworkers with less experience and education made substantially more than I did and that it was bullshit, but the only way he could rectify it was to get me bigger raise with a promotion. And then the guys and I got promoted in the same year with the same percentage raise… so they’re STILL making more than me for doing what is essentially the same job and without my pair of master’s degrees in the field.

    The manager who told me about the pay disparity also told me that if it ever came up officially, he’d deny we ever had the conversation. So he was willing to confirm what I’d suspected for years, but not willing to go to bat with his bosses to make it right.

  31. Ck*

    How big is the pay difference? In many industries it’s expected that there are pay variations among people at the same level / title due to differences in experience /knowledge /skills /background.

    For example, the pay band for level1 employees at a place I worked was approx 50k-60k – it was possible and completely normal for two employees at the same level to have a 20% pay differential.

    An employee at the lowest value in the pay band was typically fresh out of school, had no prior work experience, and probably did not negotiate. An employee at the highest end of that pay band may have 2-3 years of experience, some indication of being a top performer, and negotiated their pay. The person at the top of the range is likely also expected to be promoted to the next level sooner than the person at the bottom.

    Again – these are people with the same job description. Just different skill & knowledge/output levels. Just because there is a pay difference doesn’t mean sexual discrimination is happening.

  32. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

    Hi, OP here.

    Thank you so much, Allison, for your answer – you really nailed it. It’s very comforting to know this isn’t all in my head. And your advice is perfect and makes absolute sense. I am having a meeting with Sorta-HR tomorrow, and I plan to phrase it pretty much exactly how you put it: “I’ve been thinking about it, I’m concerned we may be on the wrong side of the law with this, could you help me speak with Manager to get a better understanding of his thought process behind that decision” etc. I originally framed the question as “Did you know about this? What/why?” so her shrug and eye-roll was less unhelpfulness and more I-don’t-get-it-either, that-guy-amirite. It wasn’t until after that conversation that I realized it could be discriminatory; I’m confident she will take it seriously and help as much as she can when I bring it up.

    To the commentariat: Wow. I just… you are all really lovely and I cannot possibly tell you how much I appreciate the thoughtful and supportive comments. Y’all are the best. I want to try and clarify some things that a lot of folks asked about/mentioned, but I feel like I should throw in a bit of an update first. (In Which: Things Get Even Weirder).

    As it turns out, Fergus was truly f—ing awful at this job. He put in a good-faith effort for maybe a week, and then everything took a serious left turn. He didn’t seem to want to learn how to do the job well or at all. He refused to communicate directly with others in the office when trying to resolve issues. He got hostile when given feedback. He ignored direct requests to Please Do This Thing or Please Don’t Do That Thing. I’d often see him browsing the internet when there was definitely unfinished work assigned to him. He’d change information on customer-facing tickets (title, update, information contained IN THE TICKET OMG NO WHY) behind my back. When I corrected it, he’d change it again. For the first month or so he’d come in at his start time, take an hour lunch, and leave exactly eight hours after he got there. So that means he was getting paid for eight-hour days because: salary, but only present/”working” for seven. When Manager pointed out that he needed to stay that extra hour so the service desk had adequate coverage, he got visibly angry. He told me later “I thought we got a paid lunch.” (Has anyone here ever been paid for their lunch hour? At any job ever? Genuinely curious if some places do that.)

    You’ll notice I’m using past tense here.

    I spent about a month bringing these things to Manager’s attention – since it had been made abundantly clear to me that I was not in charge here. Manager, after much dragging of feet, scheduled a “team meeting” wherein he tried to give my feedback about Fergus to the entire team. (As a reminder: the entire team consists of Fergus and myself.) That’s when the time-card tantrum happened. Later, Manager finally decided to have a one-on-one with Fergus, framed as a check-in to see how things were going and what Manager could do to help him succeed.

    Then…. Fergus put in his notice. All told he worked with us about two months.

    SO. That moves the conversation about the pay discrepancy from “We are breaking the law” to “Let’s not break it again, shall we?” On one hand, I feel like there’s less I can ask for in terms of remedying the situation now; on the other hand, Manager is now acutely aware of precisely how fucked he’ll be, and in what ways, if I decide to start job-searching. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I guess.

    I’d love to respond to some of the things you lovely people have said/asked/pointed out; I’m going to bounce around responding to those comments so I don’t Wall-O-Text all over the place.

    Seriously, though. Y’all are the best.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      I don’t know. I kinda feel that since they were paying Fergus the higher rate, even though he is gone now, it doesn’t detract from your claim that you should be paid at that rate. You should have been getting a rate at least as high as his while he was there, and obviously, that would not decrease just because he left. I would still ask them to remedy the situation, bringing your rate up to match what his was. Then if you get promoted to team lead, your rate should go even higher.

    2. JayemGriffin*

      Oh. My. God. He changed information on customer tickets??? I mean, there’s so much else terrible here, but that just knocked me back a few paces.

      1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

        Right? RIGHT?? So any previous comments of “Maybe he’s more qualified” etc… like, I totally get where they’re coming from and that would have been my thought too. But no. As it turns out, definitely not more qualified.

        I have no idea where he last worked or what he really did there, but I do know he was in his last position for an exceptionally long time (considering the role). Maybe that looked like experience to New Manager. But after all that, we’re both shaking our heads wondering if he was like that at the last place, and how he managed to stay there if he was. Just… O_O

    3. Woman in Black*

      You should start your job search the day after your meeting with Manager unless he makes this right by giving you a raise to Fergus’ pay level and the TL title. Not a promise of a raise in the future, a raise with an actual effective date attached to it. Don’t threaten to leave, just do it. He has just had an opportunity to see how hard it is going to be to get and train another competent person for the team, and he not only hasn’t done anything to earn your loyalty, he’s done what he can to destroy it.

      I’ve worked in tech most of my adult life and the sad truth is that the most reliable way to get a promotion/raise is to switch companies. They’ll try to feed you a line about “we’re a startup and can’t afford to pay you more yet” or “we need you in your position” up until the minute you turn in the letter of resignation, when suddenly exceptions can be made and they can find someone else to fill your old position so they can promote you.

      I worked at a startup where the VP of Engineering announced in a meeting one day that there would be no more raises except when accompanied by promotions. I had just been assigned as “acting tech lead” (all the responsibility, but no pay raise) a few days earlier. No man at the company had ever been an “acting” TL, and when I talked to a couple of the other female TLs, they both said they’d had to do several months as acting TL before getting the accompanying raise.

      My VP was shocked when I turned in my notice later that month, and “very disappointed” that I only gave him two weeks – he expected his TLs to give him more time so he could find & train their replacement. I have to admit to more than a little satisfaction when I pointed out that I wasn’t being paid as a TL, I was just acting as one.

      1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

        Ugh! Yes, you’re absolutely right. When this originally all went down, that’s exactly what they were trying to get out of me – “acting” team lead, although the words they used were “step up” and (I’m not making this up) “game on.” Like… what does that even… O_o

        Funny how I’d have to do the extra work for free, for an indeterminate amount of time, to prove that I could handle the responsibility. Meanwhile, these two dudes we just interviewed both seem like leadership material right out of the box. HMMMM.

        Also – “very disappointed?” What, is he your dad?? Good for you for throwing that right back in his face where it belonged. Well done indeed.

  33. Tavie*

    Something similar happened to me at my last job.

    I was assistant manager of a department in a pre-employment background check company. During the 2008 financial crisis (about 4 years into my time there) the company called everyone together into a room and announced that about half the staff was being let go, including the (male) manager of my department. In a follow-up meeting afterward, it was explained to me that both of us weren’t needed, and that I’d be taking over the manager’s duties, and once “the economy was back on its feet” I’d be getting a pay raise to compensate for the additional duties. (I should have gotten this in writing, but I was inexperienced and naive, and also very upset and sad that many of my friends had just lost their jobs.)

    Cut to two and a half years later. I’d been doing the work of the manager for over two years with no significant pay raise. (At each review I was given either no bump or a small cost-of-living bump, and promised that I’ll get my raise “when the economy is better”.) At this point I now had my own (male) assistant manager, whom I’d taught everything he knows. I got a text from him (we’re friends) one day after work saying that they’d just offered him a promotion to another department at a significant raise, much more than what I made. I got upset, and spoke to a former colleague (a woman previously above both me and my old manager and privy to our salaries, also previously laid off) who confirmed that my former (male) manager had been making *twice my salary* while he’d been doing the same job, and I’d been doing it for 3 years at half the rate.

    So I went in and asked for a raise, citing the promise I’d been given when promoted to manager, and was denied.

    At which point I left the company, was hired within 1 month at a new company, and have been happy ever since.

    (I did try filing a claim at the EEOC, but I didn’t have a paper trail to prove that I was doing the same work at half the rate of my male predecessor, and when EEOC investigated, my company simply lied and said I was lying, and the case was dismissed. I couldn’t afford a lawyer to follow up, so that was that. They’re still in business, and they’re awful, but I have friends who still work there so I’ll say no more.)

    1. Not Fergus' Boss (OP)*

      *climbs off couch*

      *fixes stiff drink*

      *retrieves eyebrows from hairline*

      Wow. Effing wow. As a wise woman once said, “That shit is bananas.”

      I’ve also recently learned that my company is under a wage freeze; so raises are on hold “just until next fiscal year.” (Uh-huh.) I feel like you’ve just given me a glimpse into my future…

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