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I've been looking for another job, and one company is close to making me an offer, but has asked for recent pay stubs and W2's to verify my employment and current salary.

Unfortunately, my current employer has been unable to make full payroll for a while, so my recent pay stubs are drastically lower than my contractually agreed-upon salary.

Any pointers on how/if I can proceed without looking like I'm lying about my salary?

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    I would never had over my previous pay stubs to a new employer. What I earned in my last job is really none of their business. While this might be part of the salary negotiation process. It's still private information, and I don't think it's ethical to make such a request. What industry do you work in? and what US state? – user7360 May 15 '18 at 18:29
  • Software development. I'm trying to keep this as anonymous as possible, so I can't really disclose the state. I realize some states have passed laws against this sort of thing, but I don't think mine is one of them. – employment troubles May 15 '18 at 18:32
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    Even without the law it's none of their business. Confirmation of employment is one thing but they don't need the numbers. – cdkMoose May 15 '18 at 18:40
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    @cgTag Convert your comment to an answer & I'll upvote it. – Dan Pichelman May 15 '18 at 18:41
  • I updated the question: they also asked for W2's, but those show the correct amount for last year. That said, I really don't see why they need these, tbh – employment troubles May 15 '18 at 18:45
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It's not typical in the US for employers to "need" prior salary information (much less proof in the form of W2s or paystubs) in order to make an employment offer. In fact, it's illegal in some states for employers to request your prior salary, and as a result, many employers who used to ask have stopped, even if their state doesn't (yet) have a ban.

The process of negotiating salary is like any other negotiation - both parties are trying to optimize their own set of criteria. Typically, the employer is trying to pay as little as possible for a given skill set (although some employers will interpret this differently, some will see the value in paying more for people they really want while others are just looking to pay the least to the cheapest person).

Employers know that potential candidates are likely to compare any salary offer with the current (or most recent) salary. People looking for a new job don't like to feel like they're making LESS at the new job than at the old one. Therefore, if the employer can determine (and prove) what you were making in your last job, they know a theoretical "floor" of what you'll accept: If they know you were making $50k, and they had budgeted $80k, they may only offer you $55k instead of the full $80k, and tally a $25k annual savings as a result. Meanwhile, if they didn't know you were making $50k, and you pushed for $70k, they'd probably happily offer you $70k.

In other words, they use the knowledge of your prior salary as leverage against you in the negotiation.

So, what do you do when asked for this information?

  1. Determine if it's legal for the employer to ask in your state. If not, you can let them know this.
  2. Redirect them to your desired salary: "My last salary was based on the job I was performing for my last employer. What I'm interested in talking about is the job I'm going to be performing for you, and I think that is worth $X." If the request comes in the form of a spot on an application, leave it blank and indicate something along the above sentence in any comments or notes on the application.
  3. If asked for paystubs, or confirmation of your salary via some other documentation, inform them that you're not comfortable sharing documentation that contains personal information, and that information about your salary at your last employer is proprietary to that company.

It can be hard, as a job candidate, to essentially say no to something a potential employer is asking for, but if they push hard for you to give them information you're not comfortable sharing, you have to ask yourself: Do you actually want to work for a company that is essentially playing dirty right from the start, when trying to negotiate your salary? There are always other jobs out there...

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    +1 for the last paragraph. The things candidate companies do to candidates during the interview/offer process are very often indicative of how they treat their employees. – Blrfl May 15 '18 at 19:08
  • What Blrfl said. – John R. Strohm May 15 '18 at 20:04
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My gut says never share your pay stub with another company, but according to Google this is an unfortunately common request.

So you have limited options:

  1. Tell them you're not comfortable sharing your paystub, and it's not relevant to the discussion anyway (and hope they don't close negotiations).
  2. Share an old pay stub and explain the situation.
  3. Share another document, like your contract or your tax return, with personal details redacted.

The first 2 choices have a poor outlook, I'm afraid, and I don't really like the sound of option 3, but I don't think there are any other options. Personally, I'd go with option 1 and hope for the best, but if you think your options are limited for other jobs, you may have to go with 2 or 3.

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    Eh, I'd love to go with option 2, but I can't explain the situation without violating a company policy (honestly, I think actually sharing the stubs would for the same reason) – employment troubles May 15 '18 at 19:04
  • @employmenttroubles - how concerned are you really about violating the policies of a company which isn't paying you ... ? I have a policy of getting paid for the work I do and you probably should to. This is not a situation which you caused. – brhans May 15 '18 at 19:26
  • @brhans it's easy to ask that question without any context of what the penalty may be. – dwizum May 15 '18 at 19:43
  • @employmenttroubles If 2 is really not an option, I think you'll have to either do 1 or 3. Or just walk away from both jobs and look somewhere else, of course. I know it's easier said than done, though. :( – CullenJ May 15 '18 at 22:00

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