This job pays $60,000 – or maybe $150,000: companies skirt New York salary law

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Do you want to know how much money your future co-workers will make? Take a look at new job postings in New York City. One Deloitte ad promises compensation between $86,800 and $161,200 a year. A technical writer at Amazon can expect to make somewhere in the range of $125,800 to $211,300. And a head of news audio at the Wall Street Journal will earn somewhere in the range of $140,000 to $450,000. That’s a difference of $310,000.

These astronomical figures became social media joke fodder after the reporter Victoria M Walker rounded up the most ridiculous ranges in a Twitter thread. “With NYC’s salary law now in place, I’ve been looking at some companies’ salary ranges, & I can already see that the ‘good faith’ part of the law is going to be tested,” she wrote, setting off a slew of responses naming and shaming such listings.

“Looks like I’ll be asking for the highest number they’re going to give,” one person tweeted.

“The low end is the real number, the rest of it is hoping someone doesn’t realize that and applies,” another wrote.

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New Yorkers have this opportunity to spy on potential wages because the city’s Salary Transparency Law went into effect on 1 November. But anyone looking to compare their paycheck to a future colleague’s may be disappointed by comically large ranges. On the hunt for a gig at Citigroup? Expect to make between $0 and $2m.

As Gothamist first reported, a spokesperson for Citigroup blamed its ranges on a “computer glitch”. Though the original pay gap was edited, the salary is still listed as between $59,340.00 and $149,320.00. Those bookended wages would allow two very different standards of living in NYC.

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In a statement, a Citi representative said: “We are proactively mitigating this issue by reviewing all job postings to ensure the correct range is listed.”

August Aldebot-Green, an Amazon spokesperson, said: “We’ll of course comply with the law. Amazon is committed to pay equity, and we already list the pay for some roles even where it’s not required.”

Publicists for the Wall Street Journal and Deloitte did not respond to an inquiry.

The law, which applies to both yearly and hourly salaries, affects all listings for permanent jobs performed in-person in New York. Remote gigs are exempt. It comes on the heels of a similar law enacted in Colorado last year, which researchers found led to a decrease in the number of jobs posted but an increase in employment overall, CNBC reported. That law also fell prey to some corporate shadiness: certain companies began hiring out-of-state work-from-home employees or leaving Colorado altogether in an attempt to skirt the measure.

In New York, so far the only requirement when it comes to salary bands is that “the employer in good faith believes at the time of the posting it would pay for the advertised job, promotion, or transfer opportunity”. So here lies the loophole: “good faith” does not hold much weight when companies post listings where the higher rate is nearly double that of the lower one.

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According to Gothamist, it’s “unclear” whether the city’s commission on human rights will go after these companies with fines for violating the law.

The New York City councilmember Nantasha Williams, who also chairs the committee on civil and human rights, told the Guardian she “couldn’t believe” some of the ranges she saw floating around Twitter. “[I thought] ‘This is really a posting?’” she said. “I’m going to the company website.”

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View image in fullscreenNantasha Williams. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Williams added that the law’s intention was to “chip away” at pay inequity in the city, which disproportionately affects women and people of color. “Even though it’s amusing to see how companies skirt the law, it’s also quite telling and revealing in terms of total disregard of what it means to have equity within pay,” she said.

While Williams allowed that it was “hard to say” what falls under the category of a reasonable, “good faith” salary, what she had seen was “quite egregious”. She has not gone to the commission on human rights to address the issue, but plans to do so.

Jeanne M Christensen, a partner at the New York employment law firm Wigdor LLP, believes “it’s not going to take long for clarification on what is considered a range that is compliant with the new law”.

“Of course, companies have enjoyed decades of not having to provide us with this information publicly,” she said. “They’re used to doing things in a certain way, and this is a big change. They want to stick as close to the old way of doing things as possible.”

Christensen added that it could be difficult to litigate cases alleging salary inequities among employees, because it could be tough to acquire evidence of what competitors were actually earning. “If you’re representing a white female alleging that she’s paid less than her white male counterpart and have no way to get [salary] information, it’s hard to know what’s really happening,” she said. “Transparency is certainly a step in the right direction for groups who are traditionally ostracized.”

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Rana Boukhari, 26, works in consulting and change management and is currently on the job hunt. There have been times when she’s gone through an entire interview process without hearing anything about pay, and received offers that were too low. “It’s been a huge waste of time,” she said. “If I saw ranges in ads that were below what I wanted, I wouldn’t have applied.”

When Boukhari applied for jobs last week, she said she saw listings that offered salary bands between $90,000 and $120,000. “It’s a very big range,” she said. “[It makes you wonder]: ‘Where do I lie in that range?”

Robin Blaire-Batte, a union organizer at New York’s Communication Workers Local 1180, said she believed a salary range of $30,000 or $40,000 was acceptable for future listings. “[Applicants] have different levels of experience,” she said. But those gaps of $100,000 you see on listings this week will probably go unpunished.

“We don’t expect any of the companies to be fined at all, for now,” she said. “The New York City human rights commission will probably let it go because it’s the start of this initiative. But later on, if it gets crazy, they will.”

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