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Don't Bargain-Basement Yourself

In today's job market, you might be tempted to offer to work for free or at a reduced salary during a trial period to prove yourself to an employer. Don't do it, says consultant Edward Navis of Full Spectrum HR in Little Falls, N.J. You'll simply devalue yourself and set the company up for a pay discrimination suit, he says.

"From a marketing perspective, people look at free things as having no value," Navis says. "And even if they say yes to reduced pay, they may not see you as worth more at the end of the trial period."

Regardless of the economy, companies have to stick to the standard of equal pay for equal work and equal qualifications. If you're a member of a federally or state-protected class based on your disability, race, religion, gender, etc., and the company lets you work for free, or at a reduced rate, you could later file a pay-discrimination case against the employer.

The same theory applies when companies do layoffs and re-hires. "A recent court decision found in favor of a 60-year-old chief financial officer facing a job loss because of tough financial times," Navis says. "He offered to take a steep pay cut, bringing his salary down to $60,000 annually. His offer was rejected, but he later found out that his replacement, much younger than he, was earning more than that. He filed an age discrimination claim, and things aren't looking too good for the employer right now."

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AUTHORDona DeZube Insider Comment
  • Ed
    Edward Navis, SPHR
    18 April 2009

    I appreciate your frustration. But please note that there's a difference between pricing yourself reasonably and attractively, and pricing yourself too far below market value. A recent MBA grad might not necessarily command $300k and a golden parachute, but perhaps should not ask for $35k either. Some research in your area as to going rates for those with your qualifications might help. Anyway, hang in there! Your time will come. Panic is the worst enemy of any job search.

  • Di
    Dipes Patel
    17 April 2009

    Easier said than done...How about recent MBA graduates that just accumulated tens of thousands dollars of debt? Can you tell these people not to work for less, especially when most are at fork in their respective career path(s).

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