Employees can help their own careers

Can They Do That?

Your Money

May 16, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I work for an executive search firm. Three of the employees are part-time assistant recruiters who work 20 hours a week. Even though they were hired at about the same time and do the same work, each has a different pay rate, ranging from $10 to $12 an hour. I'm told that during interviews the owner asks applicants, "How much do you want to be paid per hour?" If the person answers on the low side, he or she is hired at that amount. Is this legal?

The situation you described is legal as long as the employer doesn't discriminate - for example, by reserving the lower salary for women and minorities.

Nowadays employees must take more responsibility for every aspect of their working lives. Alan L. Sklover, a Manhattan employment attorney and author, said people must learn to be more assertive in salary negotiations.

"These days employees need to devise and execute an ongoing plan to get what they deserve," Sklover said. "In negotiating at work, if you have the special skills, qualities or knowledge your boss needs, and you let your boss know it, you can ask for - and receive - far more than you'd believe."

He suggests that, instead of lamenting the unfairness of the wage differences, you should "think about helping each of your colleagues learn these now critically necessary survival skills of negotiating for themselves at work."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@tribune.com.

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