As pay transparency becomes law in New York, Colorado pubmedia has been a testing ground

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While staffers have called on public media organizations over the last year to adopt pay transparency policies, some states are stepping in and forcing employers to publish salaries in job postings.

By this spring, job-seekers in New York City will see full salary ranges posted in job listings. The measure, which became law Saturday and will go into effect in May, follows similar legislation recently passed in Colorado, Connecticut and Nevada and could help address pay equity issues for journalists in one of the media capitals of the world.

New York Public Radio, The WNET Group and WFUV, all based in New York City, do not currently advertise minimum and maximum salaries with their job postings.

WNET has established salary ranges for all positions and is ready to comply with the law, according to Kellie Castruita Specter, chief engagement officer at WNET.

“New York Public Radio is committed to equity and we agreeably comply with all regulations and legal requirements as a New York City based employer,” WNYC spokesperson Jennifer Houlihan Roussel said in an email to Current.

In Colorado, where the Equal Pay Act went into effect in early 2021, media companies already include salaries in job ads. The law has faced some pushback from national companies reluctant to hire remote workers in Colorado but has been praised by public media organizations. Connecticut and Nevada require employers to disclose salaries during the application process, while Washington state requires that employers give salary ranges upon request if an employee is offered a promotion.

Tammy Terwelp, CEO of KUNC in Greeley, Colo., said advertising salaries up front can assist prospective employees who may not have practice negotiating. The organization is assessing salaries this month and comparing sources, including Current’s public media salary survey, to adjust compensation and job responsibilities for its employees, she said.

“How annoying is the salary negotiation dance? It’s theater in a lot of ways — who’s going to break first?” Terwelp said. “This [law] saves some time. And I think especially for women and people of color, this is a piece of information that we have not had.”

While KUNC started advertising salaries as soon as the law was implemented, other public media organizations within Colorado took a more progressive approach. Rocky Mountain Public Media was already publishing salary ranges in postings before the Equal Pay Act. That opened up a broader conversation about pay equity, leading to a comprehensive salary survey in 2019 that updated job descriptions for all employees, said CEO Amanda Mountain. 

After a third-party compensation consultant analyzed external data and made recommendations on salary ranges, the organization discussed those salaries with employees, Mountain said. That first salary survey revealed a $300,000 gap between RMPM’s total payroll and what it would be at Denver’s market rate. The organization adjusted salaries for employees not already paid in the 50th percentile. 

RPM also instituted a minimum salary floor for employees, Mountain added.

“That’s the real problem where organizations don’t continue to do salary surveys,” she said. “You find yourself with larger and larger gaps. Sometimes those gaps contribute to people leaving for different jobs outside the organization, either because of money or because of a values alignment. The organization’s not prioritizing pay equity as a value.”

Colorado Public Radio published its hiring ranges before 2021, a move that was part of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, according to LaToya Linzey, senior VP of people and culture. After CPR introduces its new compensation structure in March, it will be able to post salary scales — the minimum and maximum it can pay an employee in a particular position — in its job postings as well, she added.

“[It’s] making sure we’re connecting with the candidate’s education, experience, skill set and understanding where they should be coming in so we’re not lowballing them in the first place,” Linzey said. “But also understanding, where do we have wiggle room? Should the negotiations start around salary?”

In addition to a more transparent pay scale, CPR is transforming its recruiting and interviewing process by requiring leaders to take unconscious bias training, she added. 

“The equal pay for work and the compensation structure is a component of making sure that we are able to recruit, maintain and sustain our diverse workforce,” she said.

Linzey advised media organizations in New York City to start thinking about their pay structures before the law goes into effect.

“I would say this is the time to start now with analyzing what kind of compensation structure you have in place, if you do not have one in place,” she said.

At Rocky Mountain Public Media, where people of color make up around 40% of staff, the transparency act has not served as a silver bullet when it comes to fostering more diversity. Instead, Mountain acknowledged that organizations should think about total compensation packages and how they set up workers for success.

“Transparency does not always equal equity, and so laws like this don’t always guarantee pay equity — all they really are an entry point for a bigger conversation,” Mountain said. “Oftentimes people can self-select out of an organization before even applying once they see the salary band, so I don’t think laws like this guarantee more diverse workspaces.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Colorado Public Radio has always listed hiring ranges and salary scales. Colorado Public Radio has posted hiring ranges — the range within which it would like to hire for a vacancy — but has not included salary scales in job posts.

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