We are a 2-year old startup that was established without any HR policies regarding pay. We still don't have them up until this moment.

Few months ago, my manager "opened up" to me about a colleague, who was the HR manager at that time. That colleague confronted our manager about why people with equal qualifications, job titles, and responsibilites receive different hourly rates. My manager was really mad about it and told me "I have my reasons to do that". That colleague is no longer the HR manager, and now we don't have one at all.

Last month, another junior employee, whose job title is identical to mine, told me he saw my payslip and that his hourly rate is 80% more than me. He asked me why I receive less although my experience is obvious and I'm 1.5 years more senior than him!

Now, my manager (also the owner and the CEO) obviously has strong feelings about this. I feel if I raise the issue with my manager again I will be out of the job entirely. We work on T&M basis, and I think he can do that.

I do need this job, but I feel I must stand out for what is fair and need to have some self-esteem! What would you do if you were in my position?

  • 5
    Please tag which country you are in. Labour laws can be significantly different, and in some places paying people unequally, for the same job, is unlawful.
    – user81330
    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:28
  • Hi @Draken , not exactly. Different details.
    – Haitham
    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:30
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    Not sure what's your objective here. Do you want to get paid more? Then the duplicate Q&A applies. Do you want other people to be paid less to be on par with you? Do you want the world to be "fair" in general? Good luck with that.
    – mustaccio
    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:42
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    It is exactly the same issue as the suggested duplicate. If you think you aren't being paid on par with your skills or experience, then you are being underpaid. If you think you are being paid adequately, there's no issue to resolve. What other people are getting paid is not really of any relevance, it is entirely between them and the company. If your goal is to make sure that others get paid less, then well, good luck with that.
    – Masked Man
    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:46
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3 Answers 3


I feel if I raise the issue with my manager again I will be out of the job entirely.

Ask for a raise. If you feel that you are under compensated and take no action then you are culpable. If it you do not receive a raise then you can choose whether or not to continue working there. If they fire people for wanting to discuss compensation, then is that really the type of organization you want to work for?


TL;DR You have no leverage if you don't feel comfortable in leaving.

Your CEO has already shown their hand in terms of not wanting to pay equally. If you want a large pay increase (of 80%) then you need some leverage.

Usually you can threaten to leave if your pay request isn't met, but you don't want to do that.

You could seek legal aid. I'm not necessarily recommending this (and this site doesn't offer legal advice), but it seems to be the only other leverage you have. I say this because you're unwilling to leave, you can't go above your manager's head or appeal to HR or a trade union (I doubt you're part of a union being in a start-up?)

N.B. You may well lose your job/career prospects if you take the legal route

  • Legal options are limited. Unless the pay difference is because of reason, protected by law (which will be difficult to prove in a court of law), a pay difference between two individuals is allowed (i.e. you can pay somebody you know more as the boss). Rest of your answer is valid though.
    – Donald
    Apr 6, 2018 at 14:53
  • @Ramhound: Yeah, addressing the legal issues is hard for this question as the OP doesn't post what country they're in
    – user27483
    Apr 6, 2018 at 14:57
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    They're worrying about angering their boss simply asking for a pay raise, and not without reason. I don't see how getting a lawyer involved would somehow be better. Really their two options are 1) threaten to leave or 2) realizing that they're probably not going to cooperate, get a new job. If they're not prepared to do either of those things, they have to accept they have no leverage. In that case, the company has full control over their pay and how they're treated.
    – Slothario
    Apr 6, 2018 at 19:13

First things first:

You are paid as much (or as little) as you are able to negotiate with your employer.

The world (especially the corporate world) is not 'fair'. Just because someone receives salary X for job Y doesn't mean everyone with job Y should somehow receive X. As long as you are being paid the legal minimum wage or more, the rest is basically down to how well you can negotiate. This has nothing to do with what others make, unless there is some union agreement that entitles you to a certain minimum and you're being paid less.

So how do you deal with this?

The same way you would deal with any situation where you are feeling underpaid. The question How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid? is basically what you need. The short version is that you should tell your boss your desired salary (or probably something higher so you can allow them to negotiate you down somewhat) and justify that salary by illustrating your value to the company. Be prepared for the possibility that you will need to take a job at another company in order to receive the kind of raise you want, especially when it's 80%.

  • I agree with the general thrust of this answer, however, @Haitham be sure to check your contract before saying anything to management. At least in my country (Canada) there's usually a clause in there about not discussing your salary with co-workers. IANAL, etc, so I don't know how enforceable such a clause might be, but you probably want to know if it (or anything else relevant) is there before you say too much about how you found out about this discrepancy.
    – Steve-O
    Apr 6, 2018 at 13:33
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    IANAL counts for me too, but to my knowledge such clauses are not actually legally enforceable. At the very least I am pretty sure this is the case in my country, the Netherlands. In any case, perhaps it bears mentioning, but I am actually trying to advocate that you shouldn't even take the salaries of co-workers into account at all when negotiating for your own, not even as a conversation starter. Should I emphasize this more?
    – Cronax
    Apr 6, 2018 at 13:34

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