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Retain notes on salary negotiations to protect against pay discrimination claims

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Salary Negotiating,Workplace Communication

We all understand that in a free-market system, it sometimes takes extra money to induce an applicant to leave one job for another. That’s all part of the hiring dance.

But sometimes the end result is that an existing employee ends up earning less than a new employee who holds the same or a similar job. If that existing employee belongs to a protected class (and everyone belongs to at least one) different from that of the new hire, the existing employee may sue, claiming pay discrimination.

That’s when interview notes documenting the salary negotiations come in handy. They are evidence that there was no discrimination going on—just the give-and-take of the free-market system.

Recent case: Willie Drake-Sims, a black woman, worked for the Burlington Coat Factory as an operations manager. When she was fired, she sued, alleging the company had paid her less than her white colleagues.

The retail chain was prepared with interview and other records that showed each of the white co-workers Drake-Sims compared herself with had been hired from outside. Drake-Sims had been promoted from within. The records showed that all of the outside applicants had negotiated starting salaries higher than the ones they were earning at their previous jobs, and Burlington offered higher salaries to induce them to quit.

The court said that was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for the pay disparities. (Drake-Sims v. Burlington Coat Factory, No. 08-13618, 11th Cir., 2009)

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