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How to Use New Pay Transparency Laws to Ask Your Boss for That Raise 

7 minute read

If you’ve been stuck at the same salary for years and feeling underappreciated, now there’s something you can do about it. A slew of pay transparency laws across the country can help you negotiate for higher pay.

The new measures, which vary among states and municipalities, require employers of a certain size to make salary ranges public for all of their job listings. The mandates are aimed at eliminating discriminatory wage disparities, allowing savvy job seekers–as well as current employees–to use the coming wave of information to fight for better pay.

On January 1, 2023, employers in California with 15 or more employees will be required to post salary ranges for all jobs within the nation’s most populous state. New York City’s pay transparency law is in full effect, meaning any private-sector company with four or more employees and at least one employee working in the city must include a “good faith” salary range for all job listings.

Millions of workers in the city will be affected, and pay transparency advocates are hopeful the ripple effect of the new law extends far beyond the Big Apple. Similar laws are already in effect in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington state. Many states already ban employers from asking job candidates to share their salary history. And a bill sponsored by House Rep. Eleanor Homes Norton (D-D.C.) if passed would make pay transparency federal law.

As a career and negotiation coach, my inbox and DMs are flooded with questions from job seekers wondering how this will impact their negotiation strategies.

Here’s how to leverage these new laws to your advantage—whether you’re seeking a raise at your current job or hitting the interview circuit in hopes of securing a juicy new offer.

Take “good faith” with a grain of salt

For its part, the New York City law doesn’t clearly define what exactly a “good faith” salary range is and I’ve already found some pretty questionable interpretations. A quick search on Indeed.com led me to a travel business manager role at JPMorgan Chase that carries the objectively enormous range of $115,000 to $187,000. And Verizon is advertising a massive $108,000 to $219,000 range for an open project manager position.

In an interview with WNYC Radio, NYC Councilman Justin Brannan, a co-sponsor of the new law, said he won’t hesitate to propose further amendments if too many firms try to exploit loopholes like exorbitantly wide ranges.

“If we start seeing businesses that are saying the salary range is $60,000 to $110,000, then I think we’re going to have to certainly amend the law quickly,” Brannan said.

Companies that fail to comply with the law could face penalties up to $250,000 per violation. If you see something, say something. Call the NYC Commission on Human Rights at (212) 416-0197 or leave an anonymous tip at NYC.gov/HumanRights.

Don’t get it twisted—there’s still room for negotiation

Use listed salary ranges as a jumping off point for negotiation but don’t for a second assume that the top of the range is the absolute maximum you can negotiate. NYC’s law, for instance, only requires employers to list a range for the base salary, not additional forms of compensation like 401(K) matching, health benefits, bonuses, paid vacation time, and equity awards.

Employers can throw those extra perks on top of a salary offer to sweeten the deal and, if you push for more, you could wind up with a total compensation offer much higher than the stated range in a job listing.

And let’s say you earn more in your current role than the listed range for a job you’re interested in. Don’t give up right away. Let the recruiter or hiring manager know your situation and simply ask if the range is negotiable. They could very well have additional room in their compensation budget to account for situations like this.

In a recent negotiation, a client of mine applied for an account manager role in New York City that listed $110,000 as the top of the salary range. It was less than she earned in her role at the time. So, she negotiated and ultimately walked away with a final offer of $130,000 salary–plus a $5,000 signing bonus.

Use published salary ranges at competitors to make a case

When it comes to pushing for a salary bump at work, there’s no better leverage than a cold, hard job offer from another firm to help speed things along. That being said, if you’re hoping to make a case for a raise and don’t have an offer on the table just yet, using sample salaries from similar roles at other firms is a solid plan B. And the new wave of transparency laws just made your research a lot easier.

Run a search to find the published salary ranges for jobs at similar firms and include sample ranges as one of the supporting reasons for your request. You could also combine that data with industry averages from sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com.

Illustrate your impact

When asking for a raise or promotion, it’s rarely enough to present a few sample salaries for comparison. You’ve still got to convince your manager you deserve it. Keep a running list of all your key accomplishments at work, with a special focus on tasks or projects you’ve completed that led to measurable and meaningful impact to your team’s goals. You might, for example, point out that you found a way to speed up the timeline on an outstanding project that wound up saving the company $200,000 in expenses, or the time you doubled your quarterly sales goal.

The point is, you can’t assume your manager is keeping tabs on all the great work you’re doing day to day. Take ownership of measuring and tracking your impact and don’t be shy about sharing those results.

Long-term employees likely have the most to gain

If you’ve been loyal to your firm for, say, three or more years, don’t walk but run to see what salary ranges are posted for your current or similar roles now. Thanks to the pandemic, the labor market has gone through enormous changes in the last couple of years, leading to an overall increase in wages and salaries.. Companies are likely budgeting for higher labor costs today than they did a few years ago. If you see your role or a similar role listed with a salary range higher than your current earnings, bring it up to your manager and ask if you might be considered for a raise, or even a promotion.

The worst they can do is say no. And in that case, your next strategy should be to get into the interview circuit at competing companies and see if you can secure a more competitive salary offer. There’s no better way to get management to jumpstart your compensation or promotion review than knowing they might lose you to another firm if they don’t speed things along.

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