You can pay more for a new hire than you pay those who hold similar positions. Just make sure you document exactly why newcomers deserve a higher wage or more benefits.
You can do that by showing the new hire has more experience, education or specialized knowledge, or that the candidate wouldn’t accept an offer unless the salary and benefits met or exceeded what he was making elsewhere.
Be sure to include such information in your notes. Retain applications listing the candidate’s desired and present salary and other relevant information. Take notes to remind yourself of what he discussed during the interview and when the offer was made. That way, you can justify the offer with solid, contemporaneous evidence. A jury won’t think you were simply reaching for reasons if someone challenges the discrepancy in a lawsuit.
Recent case: Roy Lee, who is black, worked as a deer operations manager at Sedgefields Plantation, a hunting lodge where sportsmen pay to hunt deer and quail. The organization paid Lee about $41,000 per year, but he received no health insurance or on-site lodging.
All went well until the plantation hired a quail manager who is white. It paid him $70,000 per year, plus lodging and health insurance. Lee claimed discrimination, pointing out that his job duties were very similar.
But the plantation produced all its application materials, showing that it had to offer the white manager more because he had an associate’s degree in wildlife , years of experience and refused to be lured away from his previous job for less than $70,000, health insurance and lodging.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out Lee’s case. It explained that Lee hadn’t shown the two positions were equivalent or that the plantation was somehow motivated by race when it offered the white manager more. Instead, it seemed apparent that the white manager simply made a better bargain. (Lee v. Foster, et al., No. 07-14903, 11th Cir., 2008)
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