Paid Less Than Co-Worker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about unfair pay:

I have an issue that a co-worker is getting paid around 2.00 more per hour than me. She had quit and was called back as another worked was fired. She has no more experience than I do, and less professionalism.It really makes me feel like quitting, even though I need my job. It is so unfair! Should I talk to my employer? How?

Signed, Deserving And Not Getting

Dear Deserving And Not Getting:

Salary differences are very difficult to understand, and I can imagine you are upset. It might be, since another employee was fired, your employer felt he had to pay a premium to get someone on the job right away. In that case his view may be that you are being paid correctly and he does not want to escalate the salary of the position, but he had to pay extra just to get someone hired quickly.

The other employee may have known your employer desperately needed her back, and said, “I’ll do it, but only if you pay me X amount of money.” He felt he had to give in–but that does not mean he wants to, or can afford to, pay everyone else that amount. If you have a work situation where you can talk to your employer comfortably, and there is not a rule about you and others comparing salaries, I think you should talk to your employer about it. Ask him if you can either set a time to talk to him or talk to him right then if he is not busy. Then, say what you are feeling, in a courteous way. You might say, “Mr. Smith, I’ve heard that Karen was hired back at a higher rate, and I was really hurt by it, so I wanted to ask you if you think I’m not doing good enough work for that higher salary.”You may have something different you want to say, but at least that would be direct and to the point. Or, you might want to ask if there is something you can do or improve to make it where you could get a raise. You may want to just ask for a raise.

However, I think the best solution is to be honest and open about it. You have been doing the job. You heard that a former coworker who was rehired is making much more than you. You can’t understand how that could happen and you’re talking to your boss about it. The big challenge will be how you respond if he admits the other person is making more money, but does not want to discuss a raise with you. Unless you can afford to quit, I would suggest holding on for awhile. Do your job very well, show your professionalism and be able to be compared much more favorably than the coworker. Focus on your own work. It might be that the coworker will quit anyway. Or, you may get a raise or the the other person’s raise may turn out not to be true. There are several possibilities.

But, if you need the job keep this in mind: Until the other person got the higher salary, you were willing to work for the salary you are getting. That hasn’t changed. So, apparently your salary is at least acceptable. If you know you can get the same elsewhere that is one thing. But if you are not sure where you can get another job, you will probably be much better off talking to your boss and hoping things will become equalized, or that the other person will leave again and a less highly paid person hired. Or, that you will become more highly paid yourself!Best wishes as you work through this challenge.

Tina Lewis Rowe