Pay transparency for all employees in some US government entities

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey publishes the salaries of its 6,777 employees on its website. The decision came after some criticism about how public money is spent and some controversy about payroll in this organisation. When I read this article, I have to admit being impressed by the level of transparency announced in the article (updates every quarter, overtime payments to be showed etc) and so I tried to check it by myself. Unfortunately the link provided in the article did not work and I could not see which information really is available.

However another link on the second page of the article sent me to a similar website. Still in New Jersey, the State Transparency Center publishes “public payroll” data for State employees. One of the predefined reports, Payroll by agency, goes quite deep into detail, listing each job in the organisation, how many employees hold this job, their salary, overtime and other payments as well as the sum. The data is aggregated and does not link to names of the employees, but some of them are pretty easy to figure out. After all, how many Executive Directors of a specific State Agency are there ? Well, it turns out, only one – and his (or her) salary is shared in this freely available report.

That initiative is a finalist in the 2011 Recognition Awards from the Open Government Initiative which was launched by President Barack Obama in January 2009 with the aim to “ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration”.

Well, whether we believe in keeping salaries confidential or in some form of transparency (for example publishing salary ranges or average pay per grade), I have rarely seen an organisation being this open and publishing this detailed type of information.

If only because I can imagine the number of queries (and surely many were complaints) that must have flooded the HR department the following day, I commend the bravery of this organisation. Surely HR must have gone through a serious preparation work before getting ready to post this data and to be honest, I am not sure many companies in the private sector would be willing to hold themselves accountable to this degree of transparency. In the UK for example, it is only a recent recommendation from the High Pay Commission to publish the top 10 salaries in the company for publicly listed organisations.

So what do you say ? For or against publishing salary information ? Have you ever worked in a company that was (relatively) transparent in its actual pay practices ? What was the impact on employee morale and engagement ? Please share your thoughts in the comments section !


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