Pay Transparency: A Growing Trend in the American Workplace

With salary transparency laws spreading across the United States, employers are becoming more forthcoming about pay to stay competitive. This trend benefits women and people of color, who statistically fare less well in hiring negotiations.

Pay transparency has emerged as a growing trend in the American workplace. Analysts with major job search websites have noticed an increasing number of US employers posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it is not legally required. Following new legislation in New York City, California, Washington, Colorado, and elsewhere, employers across the country are becoming more transparent about pay to stay competitive with companies in states that require employers to post salary ranges. A tight labor market and a significant increase in remote work have also contributed to the rise.

According to a new report from job search site Indeed, the number of US job postings that include salary information more than doubled between February 2020 and February 2023, from 18.4% to 43.7%. While salary visibility is highest in the western part of the country, which tends to have more regulation, it is lowest in the southern US, which accounted for 18 of the 20 least transparent metro areas.

Advocates say it’s a trend that benefits women and people of color, who statistically fare less well in hiring negotiations. Rather than placing the responsibility on the job-seeker or employee to determine how their pay compares to coworkers and what fair compensation might be, the laws shift that expectation to the employer. Kate Bahn, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, says that means employers have less of an upper hand in determining pay. Laws that forbid employers from asking potential hires about salary history in recent years do similar work.

In 2021, the median pay for full-time women workers was about 83% of men’s pay, according to federal data, and women make less than their male counterparts in nearly all fields. Black women make 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, according to a report by the National Partnership for Women and Families. Latina women make 54 cents and Native American women 51 cents.

Pay transparency is also helping job-seekers avoid wasting time and effort. Keegan Vance Forte, a freelancer based in Jersey City, New Jersey, is looking for a permanent position either in New York or New Jersey. She said she’s noticed more salary listings for open roles in both states during the past several months than she did when job hunting in the past. Previously, Forte has spent weeks interviewing for a position only to discover the salary wasn’t in an acceptable range for her.

Daniel Zhao, lead economist for job site GlassDoor, said that compliance with the new laws requiring disclosure is already strong in New York City, California, and Washington, and even stronger in Colorado, which has had a law mandating transparency in effect since 2019. Major companies including Microsoft, Citigroup, and Google have publicly committed to posting salary ranges for all jobs across the country, rather than only in the states where it’s legally required.

“Companies that are not necessarily in locations that now have laws — they’re disclosing that information anyway,” said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at job site Monster. “It’s becoming more of the norm because job-seekers are expecting it.”

The new laws are a “game-changer” in reducing the taboo around discussing pay. In New York City, the NYC Commission on Human Rights is early in its enforcement efforts. But Jose Rios Lua, the commission’s executive director of communications, said that the new law has been “life-changing for a lot of folks.”