Pay transparency is now required in NYC—but many companies seem to be playing “wait and see”

How is the marketing industry—which has faced increased scrutiny for pay discrepancy in recent years—doing on “good faith” salary estimates?
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

This month, pay transparency in NYC finally went into effect, meaning private employers must now disclose a “good faith estimate” of salaries for positions based in the city or risk being fined.

By now, many have seen the Citibank listing with a salary range of $0–$2 million. While Citi subsequently updated the listing and blamed the error on “a technical issue,” it’s not uncommon: The Wall Street Journal reported that many job seekers have encountered extremely wide pay ranges since the law went into effect.

So how does the marketing industry—which has faced scrutiny for pay discrepancies in recent years—compare?

Wide-open ranges

It’s not zero-to-two-mil’, but the pay ranges on many marketing job listings also seem to be wide:

Lola Han, CEO and founder of compensation management program Kamsa, which works with marketing agencies to help determine employee salaries, told us exorbitant ranges can “seem shady from a prospective employee perspective.”

Some companies posted smaller ranges:

Usually, Han said, it’s best to use market data to find a median salary and set the minimum at 80% and the maximum at 120%. She told us keeping too narrow of a range can cause companies to lose out on candidates that fall outside of the range.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego the salary information?

In addition to pay-range discrepancies, Han also noted that some companies seem to be making salaries hard to find in job postings. “Make it clear [and] easily accessible,” she said. “Don’t hide it in a paragraph or way at the bottom. Just have it in its own paragraph.”

Despite the fact that the law’s effective date was pushed from May 15 to November 1, Han said “there is some panic” among employers. She added that “people are resource-constrained” and “don’t know where to start.”

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Beyond that, she said there’s still a lack of clarity around how serious the crackdown will be for any companies that are found to be noncompliant. According to the NYC Commission on Human Rights, employers will not receive a fine on their first violation if fixed within 30 days of it being flagged. After that, they could be subject to up to $250k in civil penalties for each violation.

“Because there’s no cost or fine generally the first time they get caught, maybe [employers are] just like, ‘Oh, fuck it. Let me just take a risk until I have time to do it,’” she said.

Daniel Zhao, lead economist at Glassdoor, also pointed to the lack of clarity around enforcement. He told us that companies are “trying to see what the right level of compliance is for them where they are sharing information that’s helpful to job seekers, but isn’t revealing any competitive information that they want to keep secret.”

As part of this “wait-and-see approach,” he said that he’s “​​heard anecdotally of some companies that are pulling down all of their listings”  as they wait to see how things play out.

Change is a comin’

More cities and states—like California, which is set to implement its pay transparency law on January 1—are embracing the trend.

As that happens, Zhao said it’s “not going to be feasible in the long term to only hire in states or cities where transparency laws aren’t in effect.” In other words, what happened in Colorado—where reports showed some companies stopped posting jobs in the state after its transparency law went into effect—might not be sustainable in the long run.

Long term, he said, pay transparency helps both employees and employers. Not only can it help job seekers and current employees realize their worth, it could also help employers with recruitment and retention by showing that they pay at or above market value. He noted that being upfront with ranges can also make interviews more efficient and can save everybody time.

“I think it’s understandable that companies are hesitant with the implementation of this new law,” he said. “But I think over time, they’ll realize that this is nothing to be scared of.”

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