Ready or not, what your job pays is about to get a lot less private.

California, with its roughly 19 million workers and some of the biggest U.S. companies, Tuesday became the latest state to join a quickly growing nationwide salary transparency movement.

Just a year ago, only Colorado required employers to list salary ranges on job postings. In November, a similar rule in New York City will go into effect followed by another in Washington state early next year. With California joining, companies like Alphabet Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. will have to comply by January 2023. New York state Governor Kathy Hochul also has a bill on her desk, which would kick in 270 days after its signed, and a few other states mandate companies share pay expectations for open roles on demand. 

Even in places where it’s not required, employers have started listing pay information on job ads—with more likely to follow. A recent survey of executives from Willis Towers Watson Plc found that 17% of companies already voluntarily list pay ranges and another 62% of organizations are planning to do the same or are considering it. 

“We’re approaching the point at which a job posting without pay will be like going through a supermarket and not seeing a price on your can of soup,” said Scott Moss, director of the division of labor and statistics at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, where he oversees enforcement of the state’s pay transparency law.

Regulators have latched onto salary transparency as a way to chip away at the stubborn gender and racial wage gaps. Historically, employers have kept pay shrouded in secrecy, reinforcing longstanding taboos that keep workers hush about what they make. That can lead to inconsistencies that disproportionately hurt women and other underrepresented workers. A little sunlight, however, can reveal discrepancies and force corrections. 

These new crop of laws doesn’t mean everyone will know exactly how much their desk-mates are making. But they demand just enough information to help employees suss if they’re underpaid. All anyone has to do is look at open positions for their current role and see if, or where, they fall in the range. 

“Why shouldn’t somebody know what a job pays?”

“Companies are extremely concerned and they are anticipating employees raising their hands [for pay bumps,]” said Nancy Romanyshyn, a director at Syndio, which makes software that helps companies eliminate pay disparities. At the very least, managers need to be ready to explain why some jobs pay more or less than others to help workers understand where they fit in. In some cases, they may even have to reset or reevaluate pay. 

The process can be disruptive and uncomfortable, though it ultimately leads to more fairness, Romanyshyn said. “I know I feel icky talking about salaries. I’m of an age where you don’t talk about your politics, you don’t talk about your salary, you don’t talk about religion,” she said. “But why shouldn’t somebody know what a job pays?”

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