we have to live within 100 miles of our director, company said paying me more would be “unfair,” and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. We have to live within 100 miles of our director

I work for a small nonprofit that went remote for a trial period last year. This year the board approved a permanent move to remote work, with the restriction that we all live and work within a 100-mile radius of the executive director’s home. The exact wording was, “All workers must be located within 100 miles of X city proper (using my address as the start-point location).”

I understand this is legal, but I’m wondering is how common this type of restriction is. We are based in an expensive metro area, and I was hoping to benefit from remote work by moving somewhere more affordable. As the sole earner for my family (and a renter) while other staff are dual-income homeowners, I feel a little slighted by the restriction.

It’s weird that they’re using the executive director’s home address as the starting point, but maybe they figured they needed one and there were no other obvious candidates. (It’s still weird though, since the ED’s home is not the organization’s headquarters.)

But this kind of “must live in local area” restriction isn’t uncommon. Often it’s because they want to know you’ll have the ability to meet in-person if it’s needed. Sometimes it’s because they want to ensure that if they need to revoke the remote arrangements in the future, their workforce won’t have scattered all over the country. It can also be because there are costs and legal ramifications to having workers in other states (see #2 here — although if that were their concern, they probably would have just limited you to the state).

There’s no reason you can’t push a little on the policy and see if there’s some hidden flexibility. Explain you were hoping to move to X because it’s lower cost and ask if they’d be open to it. Even if they say no, though, there can still be significant cost savings to being able to work from home full-time (you save on commute, business clothes, pricier lunches, etc.).

2. Company told me paying more would be “unfair” to other employees

Just had what felt like an odd conversation with an HR rep liaising on my offer, hoping to get your take. Keep in mind I’m new to the type of role, a little new to the industry, but have mid- to near-senior professional experience and many directly transferable skills.

In the verbal offer, they dropped the listed job ad salary (full-time equivalent for a contract gig) due to my lack of direct experience. I asked if they had flexibility to a salary about halfway between the two numbers, conceding lack of experience but with the (at first unspoken) rationale that I’ve been working for nearly 10 years. The HR person said that salary would be “unfair” to other employees with the same job role currently working at the company, because they don’t make that much.

This seemed like a bizarre rationale to me, or at least to share with a potential new employee. I sort of appreciate the transparency but seems an odd rationale given that different candidates always have different backgrounds and contexts — thus a salary band. What do you think? Odd? Not odd?

It’s hard to say for sure without knowing more about your background and the needs of the job, but in general, there’s a movement toward being more deliberate about pay equity and ensuring employers can justify differences in salaries based on actual qualifications — and that’s a good thing. By “unfair,” at a minimum I’d assume they meant “we can’t justify this salary compared to what we’re paying other people doing similar work” — and they might also mean it would cause inequities in their salary structure along race or gender lines, which is illegal and something employers are increasingly working to avoid.

3. Old job is still contacting me with questions eight months after I left

Last summer, I was laid off from a job I’d held for several years. It was a highly toxic environment which negatively impacted my mental and physical health, and it was honestly a huge relief. I was given an okay severance package, and part of that agreement was to be available for two weeks following my last day to answer any questions remaining staff might have. I answered a couple of questions outside that time frame, but not by much, say a month after my last day. I was still unemployed, so it wasn’t a big issue, and I still needed references for any future jobs.

Things quieted down for awhile, then another question popped up about four months following, which I answered with a simple, “I’m not sure.” Since then, I’ve gotten a few questions, mostly about where files were stored. It seems to be cyclical, in that certain materials are only relevant during a certain time period (i.e., tax season). Based on my knowledge about my former coworkers, I’m assuming that they are texting me as a first step, rather than as a last resort.

It’s now been about eight months since I left, and I’ve had a new job for about five of those months. Am I still obligated to respond to these questions? As I said, it was a highly toxic place that I was in for years, and I’m still working to undo the damage. I’m in a much healthier environment, with a much better job, and I don’t particularly want to continue relationships there.

It’s been eight months; it’s ridiculous that they’re still contacting you. Feel free to stop responding entirely or to only respond with “sorry, can’t recall because it’s been so long!” (and perhaps wait a few days before sending that so they learn you’re not at their beck and call).

They asked you for two weeks of availability for questions. You gave them that. Out of good will and/or desire to preserve the reference, you continued to respond after that. But at this point, eight months later, your obligation is zero and they’re abusing your good will. You can cut them off.

4. Survivor’s guilt after furloughs

Back in April, a few of my colleagues with the same position as me were furloughed, leaving only two of us left. My coworker and I are extremely relieved that we weren’t furloughed but are feeling what we believe to be “survivor’s guilt.” Every day I think about my coworkers and how it must feel to be furloughed, knowing that other people with the exact same job as them haven’t been. I feel for them, and I know my boss didn’t do this because she wanted to (she audibly teared up on a call in April announcing the furloughs, but gained control within moments). I have now been told that the furloughs will be extended, thus making this feeling even worse. I guess my question is, is there a way to cope with this? In a perfect world my coworkers would come back ASAP, but COVID seems to have other plans.

Survivor’s guilt is a real thing with layoffs and furloughs! It’s normal; you’re a compassionate person with empathy for your colleagues who might be struggling. I don’t think there’s one way to deal with it that works for everyone, but something that can help is to contact your furloughed coworkers to see if you can do anything to help — job leads, moral support, virtual coffee, or whatever it might be. (That said, some people prefer not to get that kind of support from colleagues and that’s okay too; just be alert to their cues when you talk to them.) And if you find that it’s really challenging your ability to cope, a few sessions with a therapist might be helpful — not because there’s something wrong with your reaction, but if it’s been upsetting you daily since April, a therapist could help you figure out strategies to more easily move forward.

What advice do others have?

5. Should I change my resume and cover letter when reapplying to an internship?

There’s an internship I’m applying to right now that happens twice a year, once during the summer and once during the fall. This past March, I applied for the summer internship. I was really proud of my cover letter and my resume, but unfortunately— because of Covid-19 — the summer internship was cancelled.

Now, the organization is having the fall internship (it will be done remotely), and I’m applying to it. How much, if at all, do I need to redo my cover letter and resume?

As I said before, I was really happy with both documents. I had them reviewed by a career advisor from my university’s campus about a week ago, and she said that both were very good, but never addressed my question about if I need to make any changes because I’m reapplying.

I don’t know how far into the applications process the organization got for the cancelled summer internship, so I don’t know if they even saw my application documents before the internship was cancelled, though they very well may have. The position that I’m applying for now is exactly the same as the one I applied for in March, except for the change to working remotely.

You don’t need to change your resume at all, unless you have more recent experience you need to add to it.

And this is a rare case where you don’t need to change the cover letter much. Normally if you’re reapplying for a job, I’d say that you shouldn’t use the same letter, because (a) it’ll look too perfunctory and (b) it didn’t get you an interview last time so you should change it up. But in this case the position was cancelled — you weren’t rejected — so it should be fine to use the same letter. That said, I’d update it a little to note that you applied for the summer spot before it was canceled so they know you have an ongoing interest in working with them.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*


    You start your letter off listing a lot of “newness” to the job. Unless you’re coming in at a management position (where “direct” experience may be less important than good management skills), to be blunt, there’s no way you should get paid more than your peers. What’s the justification and where’s the business value? In the COVID-19 era, if I were a coworker and I found that out, I’d be livid. Odds are the rest of the employees are being told how tight things are, there’s a shared sacrifice, and there won’t be any raises this year. And to pay the new guy more, when he doesn’t have direct experience? Oh hell no.

    1. TCO*

      I was also surprised to see OP describe themselves as “near senior-level” in their career with under ten years’ experience. I guess different fields vary, but that would be solidly early-mid career in my line of work, and especially at a moment of transition into a new field. It’s possible that OP’s self-assessment is a little out of step with how their experience, and therefore pay, really stacks up with others in the role. The change from permanent to contract suggests that OP is actually less experienced than their peers.

      The company is right to be considering pay equity and not allowing one person (who’s not as experienced in the role as their peers) to be out of step just because they negotiated. It actually says really good things about the company.

      Maybe the whole company’s salaries are low, or maybe they’re not valuing OP’s transferrable skills as they should. It’s totally fine for OP to be disappointed by the offer. But if the company is citing internal pay equity as the issue, pushing hard isn’t too likely to get more pay. The company is clear that they see OP aa a little more junior than others in the role.

      1. TechWorker*

        I think junior vs senior varies by how big the company is and by how quickly someone has been promoted (certainly my company has people who made it to senior management within 10 years).

        I do understand the OPs concern that if many of the skills needed for the job are the same then having 10 years of experience doing them ought to make a difference! When I’m hiring we don’t negotiate entry roles (poss unusual but it does mean everyone starts at the same place), if a candidate has more experience the position is basically ‘if you’re good you will progress quicker’. That seems to generally work and be fair.

      2. Andy*

        Junior senior can mean million things. In some subfields of programming, people call themselves senior after two years or sooner. So it really depends on company and profession.

    2. xtine*

      I would agree but I’m really thrown off by the fact that the salary range they were discussing was lower than the job was advertised for. It sounds like the company is saying that no one in the position makes as much as the mid-point the OP suggested but, if that’s so, why were they advertising the job for even more than that? Sounds to me like there’s some information missing somewhere.

      1. TCO*

        Maybe there are indeed other employees earning the salary advertised, but they’re more experienced and producing more/better work than what the company believes OP will.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          They could’ve been looking for a more experienced candidate, then adjusted their expectations and budget when none applied or when COVID hit. But that’s all speculative, really. The important thing is whether OP wants the job at the offered salary, because it isn’t going any higher.

          1. Smithy*

            If the role is new for the organization, this makes a lot of sense to me. Right now my team has an open role, that’s essentially to build a new team. As it currently is, the job is tasked with everything the team wants and what it can afford to pay. It may well be that what my org hopes to get with the salary being offered isn’t reasonable but someone who brings 60-70% of the scope is. In that regard I could see trying to adjust the title/salary based on the best candidate they could find to match internal structures.

            But if the job is totally new to the company, it may be they’re figuring out the overall market and still in flux on who’s out there with what experience.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Yup. Every time I interview for a job where the ad says the salary is $X and then they offer me less than $X, I immediately assume they lied in the ad to get better hires because why would I think I need to ask the salary range if you list it in the ad? And then I assume there’s a trick like the jobs that say STARTING SALARY UP TO $300k+ (COMMISSIONS ONLY!). Bad jobs.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Hahaha! Up to 300M+.

                  So it could be less than 300M (up to), exactly 300M, or greater than 300M (+). That salary tells the application exactly nothing.

      2. Johnny Oatcakes*

        I work in state government where the agencies advertise a minimum and a midpoint for all jobs. What they don’t tell you until the offer is that no one ever gets the midpoint unless you spend years working up to it. The maximum offer for new hires is 85% of the midpoint value. It is sleazy, sneaky, and awful, but they continue to do it and get away with it.

        I have also heard the “salary equity” line used over and over in government. Even when an applicant has 15 years of experience, they can’t get paid more than someone already in that role who is at entry level. It is stupid and self-defeating, but they stick with it.

        1. MK*

          What is stupid is paying a person with 10 years experience a larger salary to do a job that can be done just as well by an entry-level worker. The pay should be analogous to the work done, not often irrelevant qualifications.

          1. boop the first*

            Yes, this. People have a choice whether or not to apply for a salary that may not be worth switching companies for after a decade.

            Just to add on: if one demographic gets most of the jobs for being their demographic, and therefore, gathering the most experience, and another demographic more frequently gets overlooked during hiring, and then has to take maternity leave once or twice, they are naturally going to accumulate less experience through no fault of their own.

            Therefore, chaining salary offers to experience, and especially educational milestones, would just naturally cause a huge gap between different demographics whether companies are careful or not. That’s why we call these problems systemic. Do-good hiring managers and illusory salary bands cannot fix this.

        2. Ana Gram*

          I work in county government and we *only* advertise what a new hire could be hired at. If a position is $50-70K but a new hire can only come in at $50-57K, that’s what the job posting shows. Sooo much more transparent!

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        One of the last places I worked, had a rule that no one could come in as a new employee above the midpoint, because the salary range was the salary range for the job in perpetuity, so it included the raises you’d earn over the years in your job. Once you got to the top of the range, you had to get a new title, and that was a huge Process because of Budget and didn’t always get approved, so you would at that point be ineligible for any raises.

        Which was actually super dishonest, because if you tell someone that the pay range is 30K-50K and what it really means is that it’s actually 35K, maybe 37K and in 10 years you can make 50K, that’s going to create a huge disconnect at the salary negotiation stage.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I wonder if this explains a salary range posted on a job I saw this week on LinkedIn that confused me.

          There was an “expected salary range” listed as x-1.5x. Elsewhere the ad stated “Starting salary for this position is x/year and will increase based on experience.”

          Typically, when you see “starting salary” that means what you’ll be paid when you start. But since there was a range listed, I assumed (hoped) it was poorly written and it meant that x was a starting point, but if you have more experience it could be negotiated higher coming in. Now I wonder if they mean literally the starting salary is x and the range is the total band for the position over time. (Which would def not work for me.)

          1. Ego Chamber*

            LinkedIn adds the expected salary range, I’m pretty sure. It’s supposed to be helpful but it tends to be the exact opposite of that.

      4. Artemesia*

        It always mystified me but I have heard a number of cases where the job was listed from X to Y in pay range and then when someone made a case for being near the top of the range based on previous experience, they basically said ‘oh we start everyone at X’. Then why list X to Y?

        1. Willis*

          Using the ED’s house is the odd part of OP’s scenario, so I see why it’s getting a lot of comments. But realistically she would probably be in a similar situation even if the company was using the city center. If not, asking about using a different center point is reasonable, but otherwise it’s just a distraction from the real issue, which is wanting to move to a different region outside any 100 mile radius. Maybe she could strike a deal where she could live further but would be responsible for any lodging she’d have to get when she needs to meet with other team members who are just driving in for the day or something like that. It seems worth asking about flexibility.

          1. Willis*

            Sorry, I don’t know why my comment landed here. I think it accidentally moved when I scrolled on my phone!

      5. Jojo*

        In my company pay is based on job title. Everyone with your job title is paid the same. Seniority is based on hire date. A select few are choosen by the company for training for advancement. Company pays for training schools.

  2. MJ*

    People can experience feelings of guilt when they survive a traumatic event. Those feelings of guilt could be about surviving when others did not, what they did during the traumatic event, what they did not do during the traumatic event… It takes time to process the guilt, grief, fear, and loss that follow a traumatic event and the loss of life. People who may experience survivor’s guilt include: war veterans; first responders; Holocaust survivors; 9/11 survivors; crash survivors; survivors of natural disaster; cancer survivors; witnesses to a traumatic event.

    We need to find another term to describe feeling guilty about not losing a job when others did, because survivor’s guilt isn’t it.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I’d agree with you, but basically everyone has been experiencing a traumatic event for months now. That’s an extra layer on top of processing any other life events.

    2. Crivens!*

      I don’t think it’s useful or particularly kind to gatekeep trauma, survivorship, and guilt.

      1. Crivens!*

        And I say this as someone who would be “legitimately” described as an extreme trauma survivor by most of society.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, it’s still survival because they are still earning money rather than finding themselves homeless because of not being made redundant

    3. Avasarala*

      I’m pretty sure “survivor’s guilt” is the generic term for the feeling you describe, regardless of the “objective” severity of the event (not that objectivity matters here because the feelings are subjective). And even if you want to stress that the event must be traumatic, losing your job during an unprecedented global pandemic is pretty traumatic! I would say the same for people who lost their jobs in the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression or the 2008 financial crisis and recession. Or people who lost their jobs in times of political upheaval and civil unrest.

      However, I do think it can be helpful to question, “why is losing a job through no fault of one’s own so traumatic? What safety nets are there and are they helpful enough? Is this how our society should work?”

      For me this reflection has renewed my enthusiasm for bolstering the social safety nets, donating to charity, and promoting the idea of universal basic income, so that our lives are not wholly dependent on the random decisions of a company. Maybe OP will find that reflecting on the unfairness of luck or misfortune informs their worldview in some way.

      1. Tellulah*

        Very thoughtful response. I’ve had a similar reaction, post losing a job in the 2008 financial crisis and surviving layoffs during the current hard times. Definitely changed my point of view on how jobs and “benefits” should be structured.

      2. Jojo*

        We have a basic income already. It is called welfare. And Norway tried thst on a small scale. You should read it. It was no good.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          In the US, that’s really not true that ‘welfare’ is UBI. I’d be interested to read more about Norway’s trial, if you have a link handy.

          1. Elsie Oh*

            It was actually Finland, not Norway, and “it was no good” is only applicable if Jojo meant “it didn’t help people get jobs over the control group of no UBI” – which is true! However, there was a significant improvement to health and stress levels, which in turn improved people’s confidence and optimism for their future. “No good” was dismissive and unhelpful, and in my opinion, untrue.


        2. Avasarala*

          You should read about the pilot programs starting soon in the US :) This pandemic has showed us that in times of difficulty, what people need is cash in their hands. Not just tickets that can be exchanged for certain specific items of food. I’m really excited about these pilots!

      3. generic_username*

        “However, I do think it can be helpful to question, “why is losing a job through no fault of one’s own so traumatic? What safety nets are there and are they helpful enough? Is this how our society should work?”

        Yes!!! Losing a job in the US is particularly terrible because we don’t really have a great safety net and our health insurance is linked to our jobs.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’d love to find another term, too, but I still think ‘survivor’s guilt’ is a reasonable description. Layoffs/furloughs don’t rise to the level of war or disasters, but they are still pretty traumatic for everyone involved. Losing a job is a huge loss, even with severance packages and career assistance. It’s a loss of identity and community. People don’t always have savings to tide them over, so their financial security is jeopardized. The loss of continuity and structure can be very jarring, even to freer spirits. People who ‘survive’ a layoff really can feel guilty: ‘I’m so glad I still have a job, but someone I like and respect lost their job and security. Why were they let go and I wasn’t? I’m still glad it wasn’t me, but that sounds awful! But I’m still glad it wasn’t me…’ Tough emotions to sort through.

      Interesting point: when I was part of the team handling a large layoff, almost everyone receiving a severance package said the were relieved to know the worst had happened, so they could mentally move on. They also felt awful for their former colleagues. One lady told me, ‘I’m so glad I don’t have to keep coming to work and wonder, “Is today the day I get laid off?” All my friends here still have to wonder if today is day the ax will fall on them.’

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Life is not a competition, and calling it “survivor’s guilt” when no death is involved doesn’t make the term any less traumatic for others. The whole “at least your pain isn’t as bad as mine” mindset is what needs to go.

  3. Dan*


    Whatever you do, don’t “ask if there’s anything you can do to help.” That’s just empty — because depending on the financial situation they’re in, the #1 thing they probably need is money.

    When I got laid off from my last job, the two best things were my coworkers in a similar boat, and my bosses and other people with good networks. I had a few senior people pave the way to a better job for me.

    That said, it’s fine to ask if they just want to hang out/grab dinner/whatever. If they want the social contact, they’ll accept, and if they don’t, they won’t.

    1. Hazel*

      I completely agree. When I was laid off, the only thing my coworkers or managers could do that would help is to give me leads on appropriate open positions. They had already told me that they would give me excellent references. Normally an invitation to get coffee or lunch would be welcome, but that isn’t possible now.

    2. Tellulah*

      When I got laid off, most of my coworkers ignored me/pretended I didn’t exist, even when I ran into them in social situations. (It was a pretty toxic workplace and they handled the layoffs badly, so maybe they felt awkward.) But a few did reach out, buy me lunch/a beer and reached out to their connections on my behalf. I know other folks who have been laid off often feel isolated, like no one will talk to them anymore from their old job, so just reaching out and offering contact info to stay in touch, offering to talk or do a distanced walk or something, in the current situation, may be appreciated.

  4. HoHumDrum*

    Using the top person’s home as the marker for the radius seems hugely unfair, most likely the ED is making significantly more than most other employees and lives in a much more expensive area. I know 100 miles seems big enough that that shouldn’t matter, but it really depends on the region whether one can find reasonablE affordable housing within that radius. That rule feels a lot like “if you can’t afford to live like I do you can’t work here” which I think is a very different thing than “You need to live locally to work here”.

    1. HoHumDrum*

      Ok, doing the math 100 miles is bigger than I thought, I guess this isn’t as unreasonable as I was thinking. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth to use the ED’s home as the marker, feels a bit tone deaf.

      1. WorkingGirl*

        I was gonna say that 50 miles from NYC is…. still in the greater “NYC suburbs” that are pretty expensive. 100 miles might be okay. I guess 100 miles = “you could easily drive here for a one day meeting and we wouldn’t need to book a flight”

        1. Amy*

          You can absolutely get to very rural areas in under 100 miles from NYC.

          I grew up in a 1 stop-light farm town with a VoAg HS and more cows than people. 85 miles from Grand Central

        2. BRR*

          This doesn’t change that it’s a weird/bad rule (what if they get a new ED?), but going by google maps Philadelphia is 94 miles from New York.

          1. Summer Anon*

            Yes. I live just north of Philadelphia and the cost of living varies greatly just in my small area. You hop into NJ and you are paying an arm and a leg in taxes if you own a home. Sometimes upward of $20K a year. But you go slightly west or north and housing is very cheap but jobs don’t pay as much.
            And although Philly and NYC are only 94 miles away it would be a 3-4 hour commute during rush hour. I occasionally have to drive to north Jersey for work and it should be a 2 hour drive. I have to leave by 5:45 am if I want to make it there by 8. And that is if everything is smooth sailing.

            I suggest this person hop on Realtor.com (or find a realtor) and do a search within a 100 mile radius. I bet there are pockets of lower cost homes.

            But I agree. It is a weird rule for his house to be the starting point.

        3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          100 miles would be an extremely long commute to NYC. And there are rural areas within that range.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Or if the ED resigns and they get a new one? I understand the requirement to live locally, but this is a really weird way to define it.

        2. A*

          Yup. This is where my mind went first. If I relocated to be within 100 miles of one person in the organization – they better be planning to stay put & employed as is indefinitely.

          What if ED wants to move but stay at the organization? So. Many. Questions.

    2. MK*

      I don’t think that’s accurate. The wording seems to be “live within 100 miles from city X” and they are using the ED’s house as a reference point, just as they would have used a landmark or the town hall; it would have been more logical to use the city centre point (there is usually an official geographical point used to calculate distances etc.). I find it hard to imagine that there is an area where there is affordable housing within 100 miles from the city centre, but not from the ED’s house. If there is, the OP can push back, but it would be better to have a definite proposal for the company to respond to, and one that is not completely against the spirit of the rule.

      OP, pick a location (or a couple of them) that you would like to live in and that are further than 100 miles from the city and run them your company: most reasonable employers wouldn’t make a huge deal if ypu want to live within 110-120 miles. But don’t try to get them to approve a 300-miles-away location, when they already set this (not unreasonable) restriction.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, I don’t know why they can’t use city hall or the official geographical center, especially when the limit is as vague as 100 miles. It’s not like anyone is marking out 15 miles from the ED’s house; this distance could include several nearby cities. I live in a very expensive major metropolitan area and there is affordable housing within 100 miles (it would be a 1-2 hour or more commute though).

        I agree it sucks that you have to pick a house location based on your job even though it’s 100% remote.

        Depending on your location, could you argue that where you want to live is in the same state, instead of within 100 mi but crossing state lines? According to timeanddate’s distance calculator, Philadelphia is less than 100 miles from NYC, but Buffalo is almost 300 mi but in the same state.

        1. RecentAAMfan*

          Practically it probably doesn’t make a difference if they used ED’s house or city hall, but for sure this is going to have everyone looking up where ED lives (if they didn’t know already) which presumably would be in a pretty swanky neighborhood. So maybe a bit tone deaf

      2. Vina*

        Well, my issue with this requirement is it ignores the racialized history of housing in the USA.

        There are some areas where a 100 mile radius’s is racially diverse. In others, not so much. 100 miles around some suburbs means Lilly white residents only.

        It also ignores urban density differences. 100 miles in NYC is very different than 100 miles from some chosen point in the LA suburbs, the Valley, etc.

        I would always be very concerned that such a choice might create inadvertent discrimination against people not just based on class, but on race and ethnicity.

        My guess is who ever drew up this policy isn’t thinking of redlining, reservations, forced urban ethic enclaves, etc. Racial segregation in housing is the historic reality of the US. To ignore that is cruel and callous to those who didn’t benefit from it.

        Also, some people want a more rural lifestyle. Some medicinally need the “clean” air. For some (eg those with tribal ties), it may be part of identity, spirituality, and community.

        As long as people can get to the rare meetings and live within state lines, the distance and commute is in the worker to manage.

        LW – one thing I would do is check the racial and class makeup Of that 100 mile radius v a 200 mile one. If you do see that it skews white and affluent to keep it to 100 miles, but is much more diverse at 200, that’s a point to be made.

        Also, anyone who has ever lived in California can tell you commute time isn’t just a factor of distance. There are some areas where living 2 miles away takes hours In bad traffic (hello to those who’ve run the gauntlet of the 405 and west LA) but you can access the area easier from far away if coming from another direction (eg, getting to Pasadena from West LA v the rural areas to the East).

        It seems like an arbitrary distance that doesn’t take into consideration class, race, or commute times. Those are the factors I’d examine

        1. Vina*

          Ps it may well be 100 miles is perfectly fine on all
          counts. This is soooo dependent on where the director lives. Is it NYC or is it a very white smaller city?

          I’m not saying it is a problem, only that LW can look at what that 100 miles does for race, class, and commute

        2. Wednesday*

          If the employees were required to work in an office, they would all have to live a lot closer than 100 miles, so this situation actually allows for a lot more diversity in socioeconomic status than the vast majority of jobs in the US.

          1. Vina*

            I know people who commute to an office that live over 100 miles away.

            So I’m not sure that living closer would be required if they were commuting.

            That’s entirely dependent on where they live.

            I have a relative whose door to door commute is 150 miles each day. It’s all highway, so it’s quicker than you’d think. That’s their choice. They make it.

            I have a friend in Germany that lives in one city and hops on a plane to Berlin every day. Every day.

            So, no, commuting to an office doesn’t always mean living closer. A lot of people choose to do so, but it’s not set in stone.

            Also, that’s completely irrelevant to whether the requirement in this situation is fair based on other factors. Just because they might chose to live closer to an office in another, completely different situation does not make the mile limit and focal point of this commute ok. That’s entirely determined by whether or not the 100 mile radius is sufficient to provide a diverse pool of candidates and adequate places for the existing workers to live.

            1. Wednesday*

              You’re talking about some pretty uncommon scenarios though. The average commute in the US is about 25-30 miles and doesn’t involve any flying.

              And I don’t understand why you think fairness is a problem here. They are being a hell of a lot more fair than most employers.

              1. Renamis*

                I did a 75 mile commute to work every day. 75 one way, 75 back. Most of my coworkers commute at least 45 minutes to and from. It’s not that rare anymore. Particularly as my 76 mile commute only took 30 more mins than some of the 40 mile commutes. This being reasonable depends purely on where they are. 100 miles isn’t that much some places.

                1. Wednesday*

                  That’s great for you, but that doesn’t change the fact that the average commute is 25-30 miles and a 100 miles commute too long for most people to do longterm.

                2. Vina*

                  Wednesday – you used the word ALL.

                  All I was trying to do is point out that not everyone lives os close.

                  I washn’t trying to replace your absolute with an absolute.

                  But I don’t think this is a point worth derailing on.

            2. Cassie Nova*

              Over 100 miles for a one-way daily commute? If they’re averaging 50 MPH that’s a two hour drive one way. And the only way to average that they’d have to get onto a highway/freeway almost immediately and never encounter traffic, accidents, or construction. So more likely it’s 2.5 hours each way – 5 hours total commute time. How? Why?

            3. Miso*

              > I have a friend in Germany that lives in one city and hops on a plane to Berlin every day. Every day.

              Okay, as a German, that is NOT normal at all.
              In fact, as a counter example, my father works 105 miles away from his home. He has a second apartment because that is just not a reasonable daily commute.

              1. Vina*

                I didn’t say it was normal.

                I was pushing back on Wednesday’s statement which was phrased as an absolute that no one did X.

            4. Beth Jacobs*

              So? I walk less than a mile to the office every morning. Anecdotes aren’t statistics and very very few people commute over 100 miles daily.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Right… there are always stories about the guy who lives in Richmond and commutes to DC, or the person who takes a bus every day from rural PA to Manhattan, but it’s not exactly common.

                I don’t think this requirement is all that weird. And I really don’t think it’s unfair. It provides so many more options than a job with a daily commute.

            5. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is taking us off-topic so I’m closing this subthread. I think we can all agree that most people don’t have commutes that long and a small number do.

        3. MK*

          I think your answer basically ignores the specific situation here. The OP and her coworkers and the ED used to be working in an office, so they all already live in a specific georgaphical area, probably a lot closer than 100 miles. The switch to full-time work-from-home will allow some of them to move further away, but it sounds as if the company doesn’t want its workforce to scatter too much (I am wondering if there are other factors at play here. E.g. in my country there are specific areas, usually those close to the borders or “disadvantaged” areas, that get tax-breaks for the bussinesses based there). It’s not an unreasonable restriction, considering that they took the job believing they were going to live there anyway; and it’s hardly the company’s job to help anyone live a rural lifestyle. If this was a new company, with remote workers from the start, I could see the argument that they should put less restrictions to promote ore diversity in their staff.

          Also, I can’t agree that the commute is entirely the worker’s bussiness. For three years I worked a job in a rural location where an entire team only had to come in one or two times a week (we don’t actually know what the in-person requirements for the OP and her coworkers are; the meetings might not be so rare.) and they all chose to live in a nearby big city about 100 miles away. Most were late a lot, they started to try to skip or work around necessary in-person meetings to avoid the long drive, they held meetings amongst themselves where they lived and created confidentiality issues. The reality is that people will overestimate their tolerance for driving 200 miles and back, they won’t take into account the time of the commute, etc. I don’t blame the company for prefering to set even an arbitrary restriction to avoid having to fire someone next year for being chronically late.

          1. Amy*

            A colleague of mine was let go recently.

            We work remotely but need to be available for some in-person and client meetings. It’s not strange for people to live in, say, Massachusetts but commute in to the NYC office 2x per month and attend some slightly closer meetings once a week. A colleague decided leaving the country while working this way would be just fine (and the country was not Canada) and just kept calling out sick to the NYC meetings. It was uncovered through social media. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get a similar 100-200 mile policy.

          2. Harvey 6-3.5*

            I agree. My agency has two types of telework. A 50 mile radius around headquarters type, that pretty much anyone non-probationary can choose (unless they have one of the rare jobs that requires their presence) and a live anywhere in the continental US type that is a little more restricted. One of the restrictions is that if they need you for a meeting at headquarters, you have to pay travel expenses for the first few times (but that happens less than once a year for most people).

        4. Oli*

          It’s 100 miles radius, not diameter, so we’re talking about an area of 31,415.93 miles.

          1. Myrin*

            Is it, though? I know the OP says “a 100-mile radius of the executive director’s home” but she also provides the exact wording, which is “must be located within 100 miles” – I have to admit that the more I read this the more confused I become (English isn’t my native language) but that actually does read like the diameter to me; doesn’t “within 100 miles” mean “no more than 100 miles one way”?

            1. Anononon*

              No more than 100 miles one way is still radius. The director’s house is in the middle of the circle, and you can go 100 miles out in any direction, which is the radius.

              1. Myrin*

                I… seem to have had an acute case of swapping the meanings of “radius” and “diameter”, apparently. How embarrassing. I think if you hadn’t answered like that, I probably would’ve sat here mulling this over in my head for the next couple of hours. -___-

        5. JerryTerryLarryGary*

          Your points are incredibly valid for a 20 mile, 30 mile limit, but 100? That’s an hour and a half driving minimum to get to a meeting, all highway. The midpoint chosen is odd, but the distance is doable for a long day or overnight in most areas, or for the director to drive to the employees to meet.

        6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Where I am (New York City) the racial history of housing’s impact on today would be pretty valid concern with housing requirements for shorter distance.

          But 100 miles? I don’t think so. That’s a huge range. And extremely few people are commuting that distance.

          And a 200-mile would be super super rare. Maybe in other parts of the country, but that’s a 3+ hour drive commuting and typically much more on public transit. That’s so exceptional I think it would only be very wealthy people opting for that in terms of sometimes being at a second home further out for some nights.

        7. TardyTardis*

          I would ride my bike or walk the 2 miles (depending on weather/exhaust fumes) if the traffic was that bad! And I suspect I would not be alone.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This rule is going to be even a worse mess when the ED moves or retires.

      1. Ferret*

        I’m pretty sure they would be using the actual address not just “within 100 miles of my house”

        1. EPLawyer*

          what if the new ED lives somewhere on the edge of the current radius? Do it all shift? It’s just so ODD that they chose the ED’s home instead of say, 100 miles of our office. Presumably if the reason is for in person meetings they aren’t meeting at the ED’s home. they just moved to completely remote so they had an office at one point. Even if they are giving up the office, that would be a better address than someone’s personal residence.

    4. Tex*

      100 miles from ED’s house makes more sense than the geographical city center marker. I live in one of the most spread out metropolises in the US and moving the marker 15-20 miles from the city center ensures that some areas towards the outer edges of the circle are in semi-rural areas vs suburbia. Using the ED’s house might expand the types of housing available.

      1. Paulina*

        It may also leave out others, though, depending on how the communities are laid out, and those communities could be of entirely different character. Eg., could leave out a suburb that suits an individual’s other needs in exchange for more rural areas that do not. Pushback would be best done on those specifics, however.

        1. Um, yeah, no*

          And if the ED lives on the coast, the area to locate suitable housing becomes smaller.

          1. Beth Jacobs*

            Okay, we’re just at not everyone can eat sandwiches point. Do tell: how many of you live not 100 but 70 miles from your office?
            Full WFH is a very generous policy in itself. All the company is asking is that you stay within driving distance. It’s still a much larger area than the workers had previously or that most workers have.
            OP isn’t claiming that picking city hall or the former offices would allow for her dream town whereas this does not. If it’s a coastal town, having the starting point be a beachhouse vs. five miles inland doesn’t make a huge difference in a 100 mile radius. Had they chosen city hall, the area might be a couple of towns different.
            I honestly don’t understand why this is such a big deal. The policy isn’t “live here because I do”, it’s live within 100 miles of X. And an exact point was given precisely to rule out ridiculous squabbling over what’s 100 miles of X.

            1. Academic Addie*

              I absolutely agree. This workplace was not remote, tried remote, liked it, and decided to keep it. OP doesn’t need to “locate suitable housing”, as the poster above you suggested. They want to leave their current housing and move, and are chafing at the 100 mile restriction. 100 miles is a lot of space. I would be really interesting to hear where OP is that they can’t find anything within 100 miles that fits their needs. If that really is the case, that the salary is so out-of-whack with living expenses in this whole radius, it is probably worth looking at other jobs.

              1. Joielle*

                This! If it were a 20 mile radius, then yeah, there might be an argument about not having acceptable types of housing available. But a 100 mile radius is a huge area. Like you said, if there really is nothing suitable within 100 miles then there’s some other problem.

    5. WhisperingPines*

      I am wondering why OP doesn’t just move and use a forwarding service for her tax forms when they’re mailed. Why and how would the job know where she lives? I have never given my physical address (always have a mailbox) to any place I’ve ever worked; they have never known where I live, and it’s never been an issue. Presumably there wouldn’t be any “get to the office in 30 minutes today for a meeting” surprises, and if there are, OP can just state there isn’t a car handy to drive in. It does seem like a non-issue to me.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        This could result in a serious problem with your taxes. I also use a PO Box for my address, but even though I live less than 2 miles from the post office where my box is, I live in a different municipality from the post office. If my employer paid my local taxes to the address of the post office, they would be paying them to the wrong municipality. Not only could I be subject to a large fine for this, I actually want my tax money to be going to support where I live, not a neighboring community. Trying to hide where you actually live from your employer seems very odd to me. But if I were to use my address for something at work that didn’t have to do with official paperwork, such as donating money to a coworker’s fund raiser, I would use my PO Box address.

        It is also very common for school districts to require that you live within the district and local governments to require that you live in the municipality or county (often the requirement is that you move within a year of being employed). Lying about this could cause you to lose your job.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          I also meant to mention state taxes. If you are living in a different state, then you would have to lie about paying state taxes. Whether you’re lying about just or local or your state and local taxes, you would have to file fraudulent tax returns, which is illegal. For WhisperingPines to believe that filing fraudulent tax returns is “a non-issue” is a little shocking.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        I call bullshit. Employment paperwork asks for your physical address, a PO box doesn’t work. Putting the address of the post office where the box is located should also kick it back because it’s not your physical addy.

        If you’re not in the states, nevermind.

      3. Aitch Arr*

        This would be a big problem.

        Taxes are supposed to go to the work state, i.e., the state the employee works in. If they have a PO Box in $STATE_1 and work remotely, then the company is going to assume that they live in $STATE_1 and work from $STATE_1. It would be a big mess if the company (and employee!) are paying taxes to $STATE_1 yet the actual work state is $STATE_2.

    6. Moth*

      This could just be positions that I’m familiar with, but many non-profits seem to have requirements that you live at least somewhat near the community that you’re working with. This may not be the case in this situation, but I can see many community-based non-profits still wanting you to live near enough to the area that it feels like you’re part of that community still (even if 100 miles is a pretty big radius). The rationale for using the ED’s house has been discussed plenty, so I won’t go into why to use that.

  5. Prof. Space Cadet*

    Regarding L.W. #2’s question, H.R.’s answer makes sense to me. In addition to the legal issues that Allison mentions, salary/wage compression can be a major morale killer in fields where salaries are public record (e.g., universities, government jobs) or otherwise easily discoverable.

    That having been said, I do understand why the L.W. would be annoyed that the offer was lower than the salary listed in the job ad. I don’t think there’s much the L.W. can do about it beyond “take it or leave it,” but if if it happened to me, I would carefully evaluate fit with the organization and whether I thought they were being honest about other aspects of the offer or the job itself. (I don’t mean to say that this is definitely a red flag, but as we know from other AAM letters, there are some employers who over-promise things when making offers).

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I had that happen at a university.
      I came in with 20 years experience, and prior to discussing salary I looked up the “bands” listed on their website and made note of what band they rated the position in the job ad. When the offer came, it was actually below the stated salary band and I was told that was far higher than the salary they were paying the employees in the role (who were students!). Worse, they seemed really irritated at me trying to negotiate to even the middle of the stated band based on the years of experience I brought because they were using students (Job was not advertised as a student role, and they wanted A WHOLE LOT of experience, seriously almost like Purple Unicorn experience!)

      Yes it was a man hiring, and I a female.
      But all you can really do is take it or leave it. I left it. Get what you’re worth OP and don’t accept too little or let them undercut you.

  6. MK*

    #2, I am a bit confused. To begin with, having had the “equal pay for equal work” rule drummed into me for the whole of law school, I find it sad that someone would consider it “bizarre” that a company wants to ensure pay equity. As for “different candidates always have different backgrounds and contexts”, that’s usually code for “people are getting paid more for things that have little or nothing to do with their work”. It’s reasonable to pay more for a specific skill or an extra certification or direct expierience, but “background”? Especially in this case, where the OP says herself that she has no direct experience, but also that she should be paid more because she does have general work experience.

    Here is what I don’t get: if giving a higher salary to the OP would make them better-paid than other people in the role, why was this higher salary advertised? Was it a bait? Why does the OP think she should get a higher salary, when she has no direct experience? Is this an entry-level position usually for new grads, so the rest of the employees are coming with little experience at all?

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Outside of government work, I think it’s more common to have jobs where people get paid different amounts for the same work and experience than otherwise. Start with new employees having the ability to negotiate their initial salary, have raises that are individually determined, and then throw in variations in the economy that affect both of the above, and the differences can be large.

      Proving that differences in pay are discriminatory seems to be difficult unless they are very brazen about it, or the employer is large enough to demonstrated the difference statistically. If you have three people in a role, and the guy gets paid more than the two women, it’s usually chalked up to either him being better at the job, or having negotiated better starting terms. And in the more blatant cases, you still need someone willing to risk their job by challenging it – it’s often safer and easier to change jobs.

    2. Bob*

      “Was it a bait?”
      It looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. I might look for a few more data points but i would lean in this direction thusfar.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yes. I would not have been able to not ask this at the offer stage because something is off here.

        Ad: Job starts at $50k.
        HR: The job pays $30k.
        me: Would you be able to go up to $40k?
        HR: Lol no, no one in the job makes that much!

        This is weird. How is this not weird?

    3. Willis*

      I could see it not being a bait if they originally advertised a Teapot Designer II role, liked the OP, but felt her lack of industry experience made her more suited for a Teapot Designer I role, and then offered her that salary, which is equal to what their other Designer I employees make. Even if there’s not clear “levels” delineated, they could very well be comparing what they can offer the OP with what they are paying other people with a similar amount of experience as her, which may be less than what they originally were envisioning when they wrote the ad.

      Or it could have been bait, but the OP seems to acknowledge lack of direct experience, so maybe there are legitimate reasons for starting her at a lower salary than originally advertised.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Seconding this. They were planning to hire someone a step higher in their internal hierarchy but really like OP, and this is their compromise.

        OP, I’d consider asking what sort of experience they’d want to see you gain to reach the salary originally listed in the ad. Can they envision you getting there in a year or two? Do you need to pass a course or get a certification? Or is it purely a matter of “we need five years of subject-specific experience before we pay at that level”?

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was assuming it was something like the ad showed a range and OP was expecting near the top of the range because of their level of work experience, but the job offer came in lower given their *relevant* experience was closer to entry level.

        But yes I agree it would also make sense if they had been looking to fill a higher level role then offered OP a lower level one with lower pay. I think at my last job I had seen that happen both ways (where they had a posting for a Level II then ended up hiring two Level I, and where they had a posting for Level I but had someone great apply and offered them at Level II).

        If they are advertising $X for an entry level role and then only offering lower amount $Y then that’s pretty crappy. But I can imagine multiple scenarios where the facts as OP has laid them out all sound reasonable.

    4. JSPA*

      I can see an interesting problem. Not saying it applies here, but it’s certainly something a company could do.

      Say OP is race A and gender category A’

      Two existing people who are A/A’ in the organization are highly paid relative to experience, and two are medium-high, compared to the people who are some combination of B/A’, A/B’, B/B’. The bias is just under the level of statistical significance (at whatever cutoff has been recognized by case law).

      If they bring in OP at middle of the band, they will create a condition where it’s statistically clear that people who are A/A’ are overcompensated.

      So, BECAUSE OP IS A/A’, and only because of that (!) they want to bring OP in well below the median. That…sure sounds like it would be problematically discriminatory.

      The way you fix that situation isn’t to bring in a couple of people from a specific demographic at crap wages relative to experience; it’s to bounce the underpaid people up, while holding the overpaid people to minimal increases until better balance has been reached.

  7. nnn*

    #1 is so weird!

    I suspect the conversation went something like this:

    ED: “The rule should be that people have to live within 100 miles of the city.”
    Someone: “Of where in the city? The city is like 30 miles wide, and the greater metropolitan area is even bigger.”
    ED: “You know, the city proper!”
    Someone: “We should have a specific address so we can draw a line on a map and not sit around arguing over technicalities.
    ED: “OK, we’ll use my house!”

    But it’s so weird that no one at any point said “Maybe we should use the address of our actual office, which is the actual place people will have to commute to when they come into the office?”

    (Also, I wonder what happens if the ED decides to move?)

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Or if they leave – will the requirement then be to live within 100 miles of their replacement and the whole boundary drawn up again?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        They will have to have an official mailing address for tax purposes at least, so I’d use that.
        As it is, theyd have to redo policy when ED moves or retires or otherwise leaves.

        1. straws*

          My initial thought was that they were going to eliminate the actual office and use the ED’s home address for the business.

        2. Beth Jacobs*

          Maybe the ED’s house is the mailing address. It just doesn’t sound like a big deal to me if they wrote the actual address in the policy.

    1. RecentAAMfan*

      If the ED moves I have this image of everyone shuffling 5 miles west in unison

    2. Angela S*

      I saw a recent job posting that said that the successful candidate must be able to travel to the company’s office in downtown when necessary, although it was a remote job. I think such wording would be better. Just because someone is living close to a certain location doesn’t mean that this person has the ability to travel. Meanwhile, I know someone who is willing to drive 2-hours each way to work 2 or 3 times a week.

      1. Academic Addie*

        I also prefer this wording, but it’s possible that the company is neighbors a state with different labor, tax, or benefit laws. Like, traveling in from California a couple times a month might be feasible, but they’d rather not deal with another CA’s labor laws for one worker if the other 15 are all in Nevada.

        1. sb51*

          Yeah, knowing where it is matters; in the NorthEast, 100 miles from, say, Boston gets you at least 5 different states. (MA, NH, ME (which doesn’t even BORDER Massachusetts), RI, CT. I’d have to get out a map to see if you can get over the VT border in 100 miles from downtown; I think you might be able to but just barely.) And lots of people do commute to downtown from just over the NH border because of lower taxes there.

          Also, as the crow flies or highway? Who knows!

          1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

            Looks like it’s about 75 miles from Boston to the near corner of VT. If you fudge about 15 miles, you could make NY too.

            Definitely plenty of room to pick a good place to call home. If you want to move somewhere specific, like the beach or where your parents live, you’d be out of luck, but otherwise you should be able to find someplace that fits your taste within 100 miles of any major US city.

          2. MBK*

            Yeah, and 100 miles from DC gets you most of Maryland, a third of Virginia, the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, almost all of Delaware, a chunk of Pennsylvania, and a sliver of New Jersey.

    3. Mary Richards*

      Yeah, I feel like this scenario makes a lot of sense. 100 miles SOUNDS big and the guy probably thought “I’m in charge, so let’s just say 100 miles from my house.” I don’t get the impression that this was some long, drawn-out discussion with lots of analysis.

    4. JerryTerryLarryGary*

      Are they assuming the ED will be driving to meet with employees in their area or at a halfway point, and want to make it doable?

  8. Bob*

    LW2: They are lowballing you, If they want to pay you the same rate for contracting as full time in house then they are saving lots of money. And you pay the difference in heath insurance, taxes and so forth. I am a bit surprised Alison did not highlight this, iirc she has said many times that contract rates are typically double the employee rate to cover the employer obligations they are shedding.
    If they claim its because they pay their employed this much then you should be an employee to get pay parity.
    I highly suspect they think they can get away with paying you less and justify it as you not originally being in the field (yet they have the confidence you can do it).
    What matters is the market rate. If they underpay their employees you don’t have to accept them underpaying you. And if they want to save money on your back you don’t have to accept that either.

    1. The One True Church of Ecucatholicism*

      I concur about the lowballing. It’s difficult to tell from the relatively small amount of information given, but my sense is that the company is operating in bad faith, offering a high salary as “bait” and then finding reasons to knock down the offer. I understand that a company might offer less for a candidate who isn’t a perfect match. I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

      Frankly, LW2, it sounds to me like you’ve completely bought into the company’s reasoning that you lack direct experience, etc. If possible, I think you should be countering their reasoning with your strengths and how you would make an awesome [insert job title here].

      Oh, last: regarding ‘fairness’ with co-workers’salaries: do you know what these co-workers are paid? Does this company encourage the sharing of salary information amongst employees? How do these salaries stack up against industry averages?

      1. TardyTardis*

        This reminds me of the tip bait and switch some people do on Instacart, and it still sucks.

        And the LW being a contractor makes her pay rate worse than the other employees.

  9. Bob*

    LW4: If you live in a location that has government benefits or unemployment due to covid hopefully the furloughed employees are managing ok. This is a form of survivor guilt but you did nothing wrong and your not gloating or throwing this in anyone’ face. Give yourself permission not to feel guilty for a virus you did not cause, customers who have left because of a virus you did not cause or employees you did not personally fire.

    1. Mimi*

      As someone who is furloughed right now, I’m actually kind of enjoying it. (I’m pretty privileged here — it only started a few weeks ago, unemployment in my state is in good working order, I’m taking a financial hit but not a horrible one with the extra federal money, and I’m generally in a stable enough place financially that this is manageable.) I know that some of my friends who have been furloughed are struggling more, and there is some stress about the finances of the company and whether they’ll have to do layoffs, but it’s not like I *wouldn’t* be stressed if I was one of the people still working. I have time to catch up on things I haven’t been able to get around to. AND I’m not scrambling to do the same amount of work when my team is down three people, which my remaining coworkers are.

      All of which is not to say, “You shouldn’t feel bad; they’re the lucky ones!” because it is possible that your furloughed colleagues are feeling pretty rotten right now. But it’s also possible that they’re doing okay and finally have time to clean out their closet and work on creative projects or build the kids a treehouse, or whatever they do in their free time.

  10. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m going to guess the OP2 is in a situation similar to one I had many years ago?

    A guy with 15 years experience in a certain civil engineering field, paid very highly by our firm, decided he wanted to work in IT. He didn’t have any direct experience working in IT. But he wanted the same grade and pay he’d had in his (current) role which would have put him up at our sysadmin level, a level he simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

    We tried to offer starting out on help desk (2nd line, engineering skills did transfer to that level) but the resultant drop in pay involved offended him so he didn’t pursue us for a job after that.

    If he’d accepted the offer and got some solid experience under his belt for several years he’d probably have been up for pay rises/promotions (I was there 10 years and got promoted 3 times). But he didn’t want to wait.

    I’d suggest giving it a bit more time before asking for an increase. It’ll certainly help when asking for a payrise if you can present lots of proof of increasing direct experience.

    1. Lady Heather*

      I have a somewhat similar acquiantance. My extended social circle includes a Director of Nursing who hasn’t been a floor nurse in twenty years, who’d really like to get back to direct patient care.. But they want to keep their current salary (or, ideally, get a raise), their vacation (right now they work extra hours three weeks and take the fourth off), their flexible hours, not having to work nights, and they also want to remain the person all the other nurses have to listen to.
      (And even if all this would be possible.. their nursing license expired once they moved into management and stopped their continuing education.)

      But they really, really, really want nothing more than to go back to floor nursing.
      Really. They want nothing more than that.
      (Except all the benefits of being in management.)

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        +1 Known people like this, too, who were professors of education and then wanted to go back to being high school teachers, except that they want the high school to pay them what their university had, give them the exact benefits the university had (even when those are wildly different from what the K-12 schools offers), give them “experience bonuses,” have whole summers off with no meetings or in-school work, and wanted “academic freedom” that basically meant “superintendents or principals have no right to oversee my work.”

        Then they were puzzled that they weren’t rolling in job offers.

        1. Lady Heather*

          And the thing is – it’s a valid ‘want’. (Personally, I want to win the lottery. That’s also a valid ‘want’.) But the thing that makes it obnoxious is the way they – or, at least anyone I’ve ever met – talks about it as a I want to go back to being a humble floor nurse, I don’t consider myself ‘above’ changing elderly person’s diapers (or teaching 14-year-olds the Pythagoras theorem) in a way that comes across as obnoxious, ignorant, condescending and hypocritical.
          (A bit like Evil HR Lady’s problems with people who consider themselves overqualified.)

        2. Paulina*

          These examples seem to be people who have fundamentally misunderstood the situation with respect to job benefits — they’re part of the overall situation, not something attached to individuals because they’re awesome.

  11. Karia*

    “that salary would be “unfair” to other employees with the same job role currently working at the company,”

    Then why did they put a higher salary in the job ad?

    1. MayLou*

      I’ve always got a salary from the bottom of the advertised band, on the basis that I don’t have any experience in that specific role (but obviously do have transferable skills that mean I can do the job). Someone with fifteen years of experience in this role would get an offer from the top of the band. In my current job I actually got a salary below the advertised band, but they’re training me up. To get the advertised salary, I’d have needed the minimum years of experience in the role, which they asked for. I applied anyway, they saw potential in me, they gave me the job. People are always saying they want employers to do that! But the flipside of seeing potential in someone without direct experience is that you get paid less until you’re trained.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        If everyone who works at the company is so unqualified that they can’t hit the bottom of the pay range, even after working for the company for howeverlong, that company needs to hire better.

    2. Colette*

      Because someone else might have applied with more directly applicable experience that would justify a higher salary. It’s not that they couldn’t pay anyone that money necessarily, it’s that the OP’s experience doesn’t justify it for this role.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        And what about everyone else who works in that department? That was the relevant part of the question: why are they advertising a rate that no one at the company is being paid?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It may be that it’s not that no one at all is being paid that much, just that no one at OP’s level of experience is being paid that much.

  12. Morenmore*

    He was probably a white guy who was going to make more than his not-white-guy peers. He very well may be worth more (and his white dude status is a tragic coincidence obviously), but companies don’t want a lawsuit. I’ve seen something similar happen— absolutely excellent employee left for a better paycheck because the company couldn’t match her market value. She was the only white woman on her team of three other women of color and one white guy— the optics were bad, though she would have been worth every penny.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t read that at all.
      It sounds more like they were stating CONTRACT pay in the ad (which may be higher rate than salary because it’s 1099) but then want to lower it due to less experience in the industry.

      Sounds like classic lowballing bait and switch to me.
      Maybe justified if the industry experience is that important, or maybe not.

    2. Analyst Editor*

      This is a flip side of pay transparency, and all of a part in the general movement, across all fields, to take any discretion out of anything in favor of rules (something I honestly really dislike), from medicine to education to I guess all hiring.
      Nobody wants to hear they’re less good than someone else, especially if you can explain it with discrimination. I expect everything to solidify into rigid salary bands for Years of Service and Certifications or Degrees, with limitrd wiggle room in one-time bonuses or 1% increases for actual merit – low enough so nobody resents it, across every industry. We shall see.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        I think this is really a stretch. Especially since the reason pay disparity laws exist is because there’s a proven history in the US and elsewhere of e.g. women with more experience and qualifications being paid dramatically less than men with less experience and qualifications (e.g. woman with Master’s degree and 10 years experience paid half what an entry level man was paid for the same work). Yes, laws protecting people from discrimination can lead to bad HR practices where they think “oh, we can’t fire x because they’re over 40/a person of color/a woman” or with pay it could lead to bad, overly rigid practices- both of those approaches would be inccorrect and unnecessary. But you can’t progress based on the lowest common denominator! The OP sounds truly less qualified than her prospective peers here, so it’s a good thing that she wasn’t offered more money just because “she asked” and they didn’t. I’ve switched fields myself, and while having general work experience puts me ahead of recent grads, I didn’t expect to be offered more than someone with actual experience in the industry, even only a year or two. Switching industries means you’re entry level again. This sort of assumption that you can’t protect against bias while also considering merit really sets us all back. If you object to the plan to fix a real issue, come up with a better plan, but don’t just knock down the idea of ever trying fix it. It’s important that BS like race and gender disparities gets stamped out. Doomsday predictions about pay rigidity just end up saying that it’s fine and dandy the way things are, when hey, it’s not. Seriously.

        And everyone is hurt by these disparities on a society-wide level, not just the directly affected groups. E.g.whole industries are undervalued and underpaid, and therefore have high turnover and not great average outcomes because they’re “women’s work” despite being objectively important to a functioning society (education and elder care for example, also HR hence lack of management training…). Lack of diversity in top jobs leads to myopic product design in other industries, and slows down innovation by encouraging groupthink. Etc.
        /End rant

      2. Andy*

        When someone is without direct experience in the field, I really don’t understand how we got to assumption that he/she would be better then already employed people. It is even more puzzling how we got to underpaid inexperienced white guy who is about to be treated unfairly by having same salary as experienced black woman (???).

    3. EPLawyer*

      but you CAN pay people differently at the same level as long as the reason is not discriminatory. In your example, WW brings in twice as much work as the other people on her team, she should get more money. Or she designed a work flow system that streamlined the process making them able to process claims 20X faster. Or heck, she shows up at work and actually works instead of hanging out on Facebook all day and engaging in chitchat with her cube neighbors.

      Pay should be based on definable metrics that are not discriminatory (able to work weekends is NOT one of them, or always on time if butts in the seats is not a priority).

      1. 34docker*

        Yeah, and risk getting canceled in the media? Or paying to litigate even if you have a solid case? It’s less risky in the short term just to start paying everyone the same. Of course, it’ll hurt the business in the long run. After all, if I‘M an employee who can negotiate a better wage elsewhere, I will. Ultimately, I’m worth as much as someone is willing to pay me. I’m not going to be weighed down by my least competent peer if that peer also happens to be potentially considered disadvantaged.

        1. Andy*

          I still don’t understand how we got to “current employees are less competent” assumption thrown around here.

          Second, people talk and unfair salary disparity demotivates people. It does teach them that trying hard does not matter.

          Third, of course you are free to look for employment elsewhere. Obviously. A company that pays too much will have bad financial results, the one that pays too little will have turnover. But generally this all is part of market and this particular company don’t think OP is worth spending that much.

          Fourth, fear of company cancelled is ridiculous, because that is not something that would be happening all that much.

          It is not insult to be treated like the others and not get more salary just because one asked for it – without any past achievement or qualification that would point to superior performance. That is just ridiculous. What I telling us the assumption that disparity is due to demographic and also fair in the face of situation where no information implies either.

    4. Observer*

      You mean that they were underpaying everyone so they didn’t want to pay the only white woman on the team fair market value because they don’t want a law suit? What about the white guy? Was he also being under-paid, or were they not worrying about the “optics” because he happened to be a guy?

      1. Anotherone*

        The other people just weren’t as good. “Market value” doesn’t just have to do with what other people are paid, it has to do with what your work is worth. As a business owner, I wouldn’t be too bent up to see a mediocre, easy-to-replace worker leave. But their rock star coworker? I will pay them more to help incentivize them to stay longer. I am screwed if the lesser paid worker just so happens to be a women, a minority, or god forbid both. I need both kinds of people— the reliable work horse AND the earthshaking needle mover. It’s just easier to come by the former.

        1. Andy*

          Well then you should be able to point out actual achievements of the rock star and their equal situations.

          Moreover, the statistical evaluations are used in large groups of people, not in teams of two. And accross large groups of people you get variance in performance in both genders.

          Frankly, this seems to misunderstand both law and statistics.

        2. Observer*


          Look, they most definitely CAN pay her more even if she’s white, if they can show that they are doing it because she’s bringing more value. Either they are stupid or lying about it being bad “optics” – unless the optics they were worried about is her being paid more than the guy. That happens, too.

          The truth is that 99.9% of the time, if a white guy really does get stiffed this way (more likely that they THINK they are bringing more value than they are…) they won’t have too much trouble finding a job where the they will be fairly compensated.

  13. Lizard*

    #2, I’ve encountered that situation before, but the offer was below market rate. What do you do if a company insists on pay equity among its employees, but those employees are being underpaid? Can you insist on being paid the market rate?

    1. TechWorker*

      Can you force a company to raise their offer? No… You can ofc tell them the reason you’re not accepting is that they don’t pay market rate.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      If the salary is too low, your option is to not take the job.

      Whether they are aiming for pay equity or not is irrelevant.

    3. Nanani*

      In a case like that, the correct answer is for the employer to raise everyone’s salary.
      Using pay equity as an excuse to underpay even more people than they used to is shitty.

    4. Andy*

      You search for job offer in another company hoping for market rate. If that turns impossible, you adjust idea of market rate.

    5. Observer*

      So, they aren’t racists, just all around jerks? OK. Even in a bad economy that’s not going to lead to a great staff. And the day the economy picks up, be prepared for the exodus.

    6. Andy2*

      I’d counter with the market rate, and if the company accepts then take it. If your coworkers didn’t do the same before taking or declining the job, that isn’t your problem. They can also renegotiate with the employer if they wish, but don’t cut yourself off at the knees because you effectively garnish what you’re worth.

    7. MissNomer*

      There is no obligation for employers to pay market rates. Obviously, it’s not a great business practice, and the idea is that you will not be able to attract the best talent because your compensation practices won’t be competitive, but it’s not illegal. You can be the cheapest employer around and decide that you want to pay salaries at the 20th percentile as long as you are paying people equally.

  14. No Name Yet*

    LW#5 – If you have successfully experience working remotely, it might also be good to add a note about that in the cover letter – so that they’ll know you can be self-directed even when you’re not all physically in the same room.

    1. Starbuck*

      Yes, that was going to be my comment as well – they would certainly want to know that you’re aware it’s remote work, that you’re still interested given the change, and yes if you’ve got prior/current experience working remotely definitely highlight any skills you’ve picked up to deal with that.

      1. LW #5*

        Thank you both for the suggestions! That, along with Alison’s advice, should be great additions to my cover letter.

  15. Judy*

    LW#4 – I’m furloughed until September. I’m collecting my full pay (plus an extra $600/week until the end of this month) and all benefits, including health insurance. My non-furloughed colleagues are working in the office one day/week, wfh three days/week and are being made to take one day/week without pay, and have to pay 20% of their health insurance. Don’t feel sorry or guilty for me unless and until I don’t get asked back in Sept. I’m wondering if people are thinking furloughed is the same as laid off because it’s not, at least in my case. Some of my colleagues are feeling like the furlough is a paid six-month vacation. Of course it isn’t, but this is the first time I’ve had full (plus) pay for not working and prefer this to what they’re doing.

    1. Winter Cactus*

      I would not call that furloughed, I’d call it paid leave. To me, furlough definitionally means not getting paid, and I think from the context of the letter it suggests that that’s the situation LW’s colleagues are in – essentially temporarily laid off, likely with a very uncertain chance of coming back.

      1. RobotWithHumanHair*

        I agree. I’ve been furloughed since early April and the only thing I’m still getting from my company is health insurance. It took me two months to even get any unemployment benefits. My mental state would be much, much better right now if I were on paid leave.

    2. Midnight Blues*

      If you are being paid your salary from work and collecting the $600 per week Federal you may be in law breaking territory.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      What you describe is not furlough and it sounds illegal. The only difference between being furloughed and being laid off is retaining your job. When furloughed it’s possible to come back to your job after a period of time. When laid off, your job has been eliminated, and you usually collect some sort of severance for a short period of time. While you can collect unemployment for both, it doesn’t include retaining your benefits (unless it’s part of a severance package).

  16. LGC*

    Wait a second – this isn’t part of the formal question for LW1, but are they eliminating any office space with this move to permanent remote work? That might explain why they’re using the ED’s home address as the central point (especially if ED’s house is in the city proper).

    Although…like, to use NYC as an example, if the boss lives in Manhattan…you could still live in the Poconos if you wanted! You don’t say which metro you live in, just that it’s a high COL, but you basically have a range of up to 31,000 square miles you could live.

    1. Starbuck*

      Yeah, it’s a HUGE range – even for the highest cost cities in the country, there’s gonna be a significantly cheaper rural area within that distance. If we’re talking the Bay area, 100 miles gets you all the way from SF to Modesto, with the average home price going from $1.3 million to $330K. Not that that’s affordable by my personal standards, sadly, but a huge difference regardless. From LA it’ll get you to Bakersfield. From Seattle you could make it all the way to Aberdeen…. for the major metro areas around Western cities anyway you’re not going to get a significant bump in affordability by getting a little outside that bubble; you’d need to move to a different region entirely which it sounds like is not doable with the intent to the restrictions.

  17. Colette*

    #4 – I’ve been on both sides of layoffs, and I do think that being the one left working is harder in many ways. But “Every day I think about my coworkers and how it must feel to be furloughed, knowing that other people with the exact same job as them haven’t been.” is not healthy, and you need to stop that. You don’t know how they feel about it – they may be devastated, or worried, or happy that they can look after their kids without trying to juggle a job, or glad they can stay at home to avoid the virus. You also don’t know their finances or what kinds of resources they have to survive a period without a job.

    It was not your choice to let them go, and you do not need to make yourself feel bad about someone else’s situation. You cannot give them their jobs back, or manage their budget, or take any action to substantially help them. You can contact your government representatives express your wishes re: assistance for those laid off. You can connect to your coworkers on Linked In and offer to make connections if appropriate.

    But this is not a problem you caused, and not one you can fix.

  18. MCL*

    Yeah, I agree! Judy, you have paid leave if you’re still collecting your full paycheck. Furlough is unpaid leave. My furlough days have caused reductions in pay.

  19. Analyst Editor*

    For LW1, I bet the ED’s home was an arbitrary pointer that looked like it was close enough to the middle – e.g. if ES lives in the middle of the city and the city is in the middle of a big suburban sprawl. I bet if you live 105 miles from the ED’s house in one direction they’ll probably not mind.

    That said, it’s a weird restriction. Does the work involve a lot of travel to see clients or something, or driving that had to be compensated? (Even if headquarters are remote?)
    If it’s due to regulations then it should be state-based — “you can only live in these states” (where we know and can afford the labor regulations).

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, it’s a strange way of going about this but unless the ED is known for being a hugely self-centrered egomaniac who sees this as her chance to have her employess literally orbit around her, I’d guess that they thought ED’s home was close enough to the city’s middle or their former office or whatever that they might as well just use it as a concrete, not-random address. Doesn’t change that it’s weird to explicitly word it that way, though.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I think there’s a high probability with the move to everyone remote, the ED’s house may be the official business address moving forward, so when they needed to pick some starting point, they used the official address…which is now also his house.

  20. cncx*

    re OP 3, i had a job where the bosses repeatedly said i was “inefficient” and “only ok” and, my personal favorite “maxxed out on what i was able to do professionally.”

    i quit to go to a less toxic place and i literally got calls up to a year after i left- so i was that bad huh?

    at some point you gotta shut them off. i used exactly what AAM said, i was like “Oh it’s been so long i don’t remember” and took my time when i did.

    1. OP3*

      Yeah, that was generally my immediate reaction when they started asking a lot of questions. Like, I wasn’t important enough to keep, but I am important enough that you continue to disrupt my life. Great.

  21. Bookworm*

    #4: I can somewhat relate. My org didn’t have furloughs, but I received a promotion and have tried to keep it relatively quiet because I know friends, former colleagues, etc. all having furloughs or let go, etc.

    It’s not your fault and you certainly don’t have control over the pandemic or what your org can or can’t do regarding furloughs. Agree that if it continues to bother you, it may be worth seeking outside help. You are certainly not alone in this feeling and we’re seeing more and more of this.

    Good luck to you and your org and your colleagues!!

  22. Black Horse Dancing*

    For #OP 1, not uncommon at all. I’ve seen many ads that allow remote work (think Apple, Amazon, etc.) but must be within 75 miles of a hub city. Fr those in rural areas, that didn’t work a lot but it was helpful to many. (I lived 100 miles from a hub city for Apple. Therefore, no one in my small town could be a remote worker for them.) 100 miles is really decent.

  23. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, it’s amazing how self-sufficient people become when they CAN’T get an answer as fast as they want it. Definitely take a couple of days to respond with “sorry, I can’t recall” or “sorry, I need to focus on my current job.”

    Once they’ve been forced into a new habit of finding their own damn answers, they’ll be less likely to turn back to the lazy and inconsiderate habit of asking someone who was *laid off* (grrrrrr!!!!).

  24. Judy*

    Judy here – I received a furlough letter with a return date in Sept. I should clarify that I’m not being paid by my company; I’m receiving unemployment plus the extra, which adds up to a couple hundred bucks/week more than when I was working. I definitely have insecurity about whether I’ll be asked back in September, but everyone (furloughed or not) seems uncertain as well. Not sure what the technical differences are between temporary lay-offs and furloughs. Both are eligible for UE benefits. Neither has guarantee of returning.

    1. OP #4*

      That’s the same with my furloughed coworkers – they’re getting health insurance through work still but are being paid by unemployment and the additional $600 right now. One coworker I’m fairly close with; I’ve talked to her on the phone a few times during the furlough, and she seems okay but is starting to get worried about the furlough being turned into a lay-off. My company is actually announcing layoffs next week, and I have a very strong feeling she’s one of the layoffs. I asked my boss in our one on one last week about the safety of my position and she let me know that my position is fine. I agree with Alison – I think a therapist would be really beneficial for my mindset right now. I’ve been a few times in the past for other reasons, but I can just tell I haven’t mentally been okay during this pandemic.

  25. JustMePatrick*

    #3, this is when you tell them you will do it for x amount of your current salary. If they accept you tell them the contract will be in the mail for them to sign. Write up a contract under your terms, such 1 year, at x rate per (day,job, hour) with x minimum. You could write in the contract they aren’t allowed to contact you again ever, then describe penalties for failure to abide. If they’re willing to pay, it might be worth it, but you have to make worth it to you, no them. In reality, the exorbitant cost will hopefully drive them away forever, which is what you really want.

    1. Flabbernabbit*

      This is a decent proposal but the contracty failure to abide part is absurd. That said, I did a form of this. One place, I agreed to participate in a phone interview in a “lessons learned” scenario, for a major project after I left. 2 months later, they wanted to revisit some of my responses. It sounded innocent until a colleague who still worked there shared their hostile intent off the record. It was mind blowing even for them. I cheerfully agreed to participate at a not too exorbitant consulting rate, and asked them if they would like to draw up a contract. Never heard from them again.

  26. Mel_05*

    OP 4: You may not need to feel super guilty. I was layed off with the intent to bring me back sometime before the federal unemployment boost ends.

    My coworkers felt super bad about this, but I have had an absolutely chill 3 months. I don’t even want to tell them how nice it has been because people who kept their jobs took a pay cut and had a heavy work load.

    It would have been nice to have a, “Hope everything’s going ok” while I was laid off, but it was really just super nice that they were sad when I got laid off and made a big fuss about how happy they were to have me back.

  27. TeapotNinja*

    OP3, Personally I’d just not respond, though, but if they start being pushy an effective white lie you could possibly use after getting another job is to tell your old job you’d love to help, but that your new job prohibits you from doing work for other companies while employed there. This works better in some jobs than others, e.g. professional jobs.

    The more nuclear option is to inform them what your hourly rate for the type of work they’re asking you to do is, and ask for payment in advance.

  28. Flabbernabbit*

    #4 Don’t assume your furloughed colleagues are badly off or wallowing as you are. They might be, or not. But don’t call them if is to make yourself feel better. I was furloughed, and I’m okay with it. I’m one of those people who have a cushion, but that is just my story. My favourite contact was someone who continued on a project I left mid-stream to say how much my work still contributed to a successful outcome. That was so nice. Plus I’m doing meaningful part time and volunteer work. It’s grand.

  29. ArchivesGremlin*

    Hey Op#2, You’re not alone in this happening too! The grandboss that hired me, told me that they couldn’t give me the end of the salary range posted because it would offend my to-be coworker (even though at that point he’d been there 15 years already and making about $4-5,000 more than me).

  30. Quickbeam*

    #2 ….wage inequity is a huge problem in nursing. You’d work someplace 5 years and new hires were brought in making more than you. It was a huge morale sump. It’s really important in supporting retention to make years in grade worth something.

  31. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW #2, it actually comes across to me as a more defensible way of trying to push a lower number at you. If they say “you lack XXX experience or YYY skill”, you can come back and assert you do have it or explain something else that compensates. But when it’s “unfair to the others,” and they’re certainly not going to show you numbers to back it up, they have denied you any ground to negotiate.

    I would ignore it; at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to you if the salary is fair to your coworkers. It matters if the salary is fair to *you*.

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