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Oracle allegedly underpaid $400M in wages to underrepresented employees (techcrunch.com)
334 points by samfisher83 88 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments

I am a former Oracle employee, white male from Canada, who was underpaid based on my immigration status and that continued after I became a permanent resident. This seemed routine–Oracle tries to underpay everyone and will use whatever advantages they have to do so. If you've worked at Oracle for any length of time you are probably not being competitively compensated unless you make a regular fuss. Even if you make a fuss they may still do nothing betting that you won't leave.

That said, I don't think it is entirely fair to pile on Oracle for this problem. Oracle doesn't seem especially atypical of the rest of the industry or even the bottom of the barrel. I saw much worse treatment at my first US employer for myself and others. Mid-tier employers and body-shop consultancy companies use underpaying people as a strategic core component of their profitability.

I had prospective employers directly say that they were pleased they could use my immigration status to pay me less, specifically that they would offer employer sponsored permanent residency application instead of paying me competitive rates, bonuses, promotions.

If you want to end the abuses decouple visas and permanent resident applications from the employer or make it much easier to maintain or continue status and applications when moving between employers.

Former H1B here. I'm convinced that this is the sole reason why H1B exists in its present form. Hire an experienced employee into an entry level position (based on level: you see, you can't hire someone into a job unless there are no local candidates, so lower the level, and therefore the offered wage, and triple the list of requirements to make sure local folks don't apply). Have them do the job that would otherwise call for a senior employee. Offer very little in the way of raises or stock in the company until they get a green card and dump your company for another one that's less abusive. Lather, rinse, repeat. That's how it works, folks, don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

My first job out of college was working at an immigration firm. You're spot on. It's all a scam between the company and the lawyers to string along the H-1 or L-1 holder. They need to get rid of the entire prevailing wage system and set the minimum wage to $150k, then they'd really only be bringing over individuals with specialized knowledge instead of what they are doing now (as you accurately describe above).

They need to do what Trump told them to do: have a fixed pool of H1B visas, and distribute them to the eligible applicants with the highest paying jobs here in the US. That's the only sensible solution that auto-regulates and stops all kinds of abuse. Moreover, to reduce abuse further, H1B workers who are already in the country should get greater mobility between companies and 1 year grace period if they leave the company that sponsored them for H1B. Currently if you get fired in retaliation (or otherwise lose employment), you're fucked and you have to leave the country in 2 weeks. There's absolutely no good reason for this to be immediate other than to foster abuse by employers. It's also non-trivial and dangerous to attempt to change employers.

Didn't President Trump also say he wanted to mandate paying H1B's the same you would an American? Seems like that would get rid of a lot of the abuse.

The current system causes trouble for a lot of people in many fields not limited to tech. Some friends have had trouble getting a residency while Indian nationals who come in on H1B are favored by the Indian doctors who deal with hiring at the hospitals they did their clinicals at in NY.

That is already the case, but only nominally. You can't hire someone into the job from abroad and pay them less. Hence the futzing with levels and job requirements and hiring "junior" employees who aren't junior at all.

> That said, I don't think it is entirely fair to pile on Oracle for this problem.

What? No, it's entirely fair to sue them for being exploitative. It wouldn't be fair to blame the entirety of the industry's problems on Oracle, but it is fair to attack each and every company who operates in this way.

> they could use my immigration status to pay me less, specifically that they would offer employer sponsored permanent residency application instead of paying me competitive rates, bonuses, promotions.

Offering that sponsorship has very real costs to the company, well into the thousands of dollars per year. It seems perfectly reasonable to me for the employer to deduct that cost relative to what another employee who doesn’t bring those additional costs.

> Offering that sponsorship has very real costs to the company, well into the thousands of dollars per year. It seems perfectly reasonable to me for the employer to deduct that cost relative to what another employee who doesn’t bring those additional costs.

How much? I have a friend who just got their green card after 10 years of working at the same company. Based on the experience of others in the same situation, they estimated the company would require them to repay 10-15k in expenses if they leave immediately (they're required to stay for two more years before the company will waive the full cost). I take that to be the employer's actual immigration sponsorship cost.

If the employer were to deduct that cost from their salary (ignoring the fact the employer could be repayed in other ways), it would have amounted to about $1,000-2,000/year, which is not a level of underpayment I think many people would make much noise about at software developer salaries.

I think using sponsorship costs to justify underpaying immigrants is just a convenient excuse.

I've seen companies low-ball employees on the order of tens of thousands of dollars. It's basically ancient news now (and the laws in Canada have changed, thank goodness), but when I worked at Corel 20 years ago they would regularly hold people hostage based on visa status (at the time if they were sponsoring the visa, the person couldn't change jobs without losing their visa). Back then, we were all making less than $100K, but educated, experienced immigrants on visa status would often be making less than $50K. As soon as they got permanent residence status, they would be gone -- finally able to negotiate properly. Like I said, Canadian laws have changed and so has Corel management -- I doubt they are doing it now.

We can argue that perhaps the visa was worth the extra money (and for those people, it certainly was), but it's still pretty crap. I'm sure wherever the rules allow it you will find companies (even well known ones) trying to save money in this way.

Yeah, immigration is now a breeze in Canada if you graduated from a Canadian university/college (given that you manage to find work in related field.)

It would be expected that employers would quantify the costs and adjust compensation to factor that in. However, many (most?) employers use employer sponsored permanent residency as effectively an indentured servitude program and their gains from undercompensation of the sponsored employees greatly exceed their actual costs. In particular the longer the process takes the more the employee has to lose by complaining or leaving.

I have no doubt that what you say is very common, but it's as illegal as it is hard to stop. I view it as immoral too but that's a far more subjective conversation than legality.

Edit: to clarify, I've checked and either the employer and the employee can bear the financial burden of the I-140 and I-485 filings, depending on the agreement. But the PERM labor certification costs must be borne by the employer and cannot be recovered from the employee, nor can immigration status be a basis to underpay them aside from recovering the permissible costs on a one-time basis.

Anyone who ever filed for green card will confirm that an immigration attorney charges a few thousands for the green card process, not more. The cost to a large company, who has one on retainer anyway for H1-B, is obviously less. Something tells me that foreign employees were underpaid much more than the cost of the green card.

For the employee the situation looks more like this: https://rachelbythebay.com/w/2018/09/08/visa/

there are N spots per year, and they mostly go on the minute the window opens. mostly for companies requesting blanket forms

Companies will underpay by an amount related not to the cost of the immigration paperwork (which is low) but to the perceived value of the outcome for the employee (which for professionals from many countries may be closer to $300k than $10k).

The government might as well collect that surplus as tax.

Not sure why there are so many on here and other forums that are always so quick to take the employers side.

Because freedom is slavery. And we thought that 1984 was fiction, but in fact it's accurate prophecy.

Except in theory the Visa is for people you couldn’t hire otherwise in the US.

Isn’t that illegal?

I was in a similar position. It’s not really enforceable because if you threaten to take legal action you get fired, and if you stop getting paid you can’t afford lawyer fees, and if you stop working you’re in violation and have to leave the country, and even if you win it’s unclear what you will gain. If you have a family or partner you’re especially in a bind.

I believe you are supposed to register a complaint with the EEOC, after which any adverse actions taken against you including firing without cause could count as illegal retaliation (which isn't the case for just threatening legal action), but I am not a labor attorney (or any sort of lawyer).

USCIS doesn't care about EEOC. And you try fighting your case from abroad. Impossible. No one is going to do it.


If the company was just deducting costs they wouldn't be pleased to pay him less.

It cost nothing in Canada, at most $700 CAD.

I don’t think I could get our mobility team to fill out an immigration application for only $700. That’s only about 1 day’s work for an employee on the team. I’d imagine most cases take way more than that and probably takes some work time from the employee as well.

> Offering that sponsorship has very real costs to the company, well into the thousands of dollars per year. It seems perfectly reasonable to me for the employer to deduct that cost relative to what another employee who doesn’t bring those additional costs.

Let me fix that for you:

"Purchasing that slave has very real costs to the company, well into the thousands of dollars per year. It seems perfectly reasonable to me for the owner to deduct that cost relative to what another freeman who doesn’t bring those additional costs."

Remember the immigrant suffers additional liabilities and risks a citizen wouldn't. The employer in this case is in a much more powerful position to keep the employee in line.

The slavery rhetoric is very commonly used to dehumanize immigrants. This makes it morally easier to justify treating then like an outgroup.

Many, many people cannot afford to lose their jobs because they live paycheck to paycheck. Funny how they're never called slaves or referred to as having owners.

Slaves don't choose their job, work visa immigrants do. They know exactly what they are signing for and can always decline the offer.

> Slaves don't choose their job, work visa immigrants do.

Some slaves absolutely sell themselves into it, in other to escape poverty, debt, or war[1]. It doesn't change the fact that they do have less rights, less options, and their employer can and will abuse this as evidenced by this thread and a shitload of other HN threads. (and yes, I understand this is unpopular sentiment because the citizens want to believe they are doing a good thing and providing upward mobility and the immigrants don't want to consider themselves slaves)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_slavery

And the early colonisation of north America made use of indentured colonists who where early on preferred to slaves in some cases.

They get taken hostage by seemingly attractive offers. Call it what you want but you're basically a slave to the corporation for the opportunity to get a VISA

> That said, I don't think it is entirely fair to pile on Oracle for this problem

Excuse me? It is perfectly fair to “pile on” Oracle for widespread illegal discrimination in their labor practices.

I believe parent meant it's not fair to single them out.

Anyone who has worked for one of the immigration firms that Oracle uses could tell you horror stories. They work with lawyers to systematically string along their employees and then use fake work locations to drive salaries down for the prevailing wages. It’s a sick industry and most of the immigration law firms working for big tech are part of the problem.

> That said, I don't think it is entirely fair to pile on Oracle for this problem

This right here is why they treated you like that. Capitalist alpha types dump on less aggressive types to line their own pockets. If people valued themselves more and held others to account for their bad behaviour stuff like this would rarely happen.

One of my friends (white female) is a long time Oracle employee. Oracle systemically underpays "underrepresented people." She ended up finding out she was making 40-50% less than new interns were getting out of college. And was underpaid compared to her male peers with less responsibility and impact.

She ended up getting a raise and additional stock to make up for it, after her VP got involved to rectify the situation. Her boss was like "whatever."

So imagine if white women are underpaid - it is a lot worse for people for color.

Oracle pays its long-term employees less than newjoiners, that is no news. If you think you can get a raise by switching positions within the company - wrong! You get exactly the same no matter the position. Also nobody in the office got a raise in years (not even the inflation rate). The only option to get some raise is to be promoted, which does not happen very often. I don't think it has anything to do with race/gender.

In my experience, this isn’t even close to an Oracle-specific practice. I thought it was widely-accepted wisdom that if you want to get a BIG raise, you have to shop around/move companies. We love to hope and pretend employers will act in our best interests, but at the end of the day the company only cares about its bottom line.

To be transparent, I am a white male American citizen. Considering how private most Americans treat salary information, I know almost nothing about how much my peers have been paid versus what I was paid at previous companies. I will say that I have heard of people making amounts of money that made me drool, and those people were across the whole range of color and gender. On the other hand, I have also known (very) junior developers who were grossly underpaid - multiple white males and I suspect their females and minority counterparts were underpaid as well.

It’s a problem, for sure. Racial income inequality is a problem and then there is the added problem that some of us just are not good at income negotiation and demanding fair or market pay. We trust the employer to give us what we deserve, when in reality, if the employer has a $120k upper limit on their hiring position, and you smile ear-to-ear at the first offer when they offer $90k; well, you just saved that company $30k per year.

> Considering how private most Americans treat salary information

That's what #talkpay tried to break. And to show I am not just talking, I tweeted mine years ago at https://twitter.com/chx/status/594598659150389248

While at Oracle (5yrs) I’ve never seen somebody get a promotion. And at Oracle a promotion doesn’t automatically come with a raise (I understand that it rarely ever does). If anything they offer stock instead of salary to “level up” which isn’t really meant to level up so much as lock in.

However the company does seem to be in a large transition - and as a result we’re seeing some divisions starved out, while others are getting fat and carefree. The division I work in accounts for the lions share of “blessed revenue”, yet we’re starved for resources and people. You can’t back fill positions, and don’t even think about new headcount. So as attrition happens, the picture gets worse. While the sister division accounts for a tiny fraction of “blessed revenue” but they have what seems like unlimited resources and headcount.

The point is, your fortune at Oracle depends heavily on which division you work in, and whether or not Oracle wants your revenue. If your division is out of favor, Oracle wants your line of business to deplete through attrition - so no raises, no promotions, no new headcount and of course rif’s. If your division is appreciated - you see raises, promotions, new headcount etc.

As someone else pointed out, you can’t change divisions or positions and expect a pay raise. You can’t leave and come back and expect a pay raise. If you’re at oracle you can pretty much expect stagnant career and financial growth (unless you’re TK making terrible decisions and 35mm dollars).

I’m not surprised people at Oracle don’t make market pay. Or that other people systematically make more. I don’t think it has so much to do with gender though. They do systematically hire H1b’s though so that they can pay less and get that sweet sweet employee lock in.

>Oracle pays its long-term employees less than newjoiners, that is no news

Not only Oracle, it's very common practices. In my first job in the UK I worked for fin-tech. My salary on start for only 5k lower than a person who worked 20 years in IT and 13 years in this company. 14 months later I got 7k pay rise.

> Oracle pays its long-term employees less than newjoiners, that is no news.

Is your choice to conflate "interns out of college" with "joiners" deliberate? Interns are a very special class of joiners and seeing them earn more than experienced professionals in similar roles is surprising, and is news - at least to me. Yuck.

College hires make more at Microsoft than experienced people as well. These companies need to pay closer to top of market for the experience level to prevent losing new hires to other companies.

Sorry, I simplified a little. The newjoiners I was talking about are not interns, but a fresh-from-college full-time workers. But still...

So your reaction also seems to be... "whatever".

I was trying to say they don't seem racist or discriminating to me. They just want to save as much as possible. But they seem rather oblivious to the fact the system is set in a bit demotivating way.

Of course that's not racist, despite the efforts to frame that as such.

Companies behave that way to _everyone_, get used to that. When you negotiate your salary, you have your mouth. Use it. You are the only person, who really cares, whether you earn adequately to what you bring to the table.

I would characterize it not as "whatever" but more like, "yeah, we already knew that Oracle is the worst employer in the industry"

They need to LeetCode and go work elsewhere, if they want to come back then Oracle will pay them market rates.

No. If you leave and come back within 2 years (I think), you get the same as you had before you had left.

If a company wants you they will pay you market rates, you may need to present them with competing offers if you don't want to be lowballed.

They don't give a ... You are just a number. Even if the hiring manager really wants you, s/he is not given the budget, so they are powerless.

I used to work for the Oracle Communications Business Unit for a few years. This is exactly true.

That's why I am for salary transparency. These issues would go away quickly if people knew what everybody else is paid.

How? As in, what is the actual mechanism by which this issue would go away? These "workers dependent upon Oracle for sponsorship to remain in the United States" are supposed to do what with that new information, exactly? Threaten to leave the country?

I hear this a lot from well-paid tech workers. Just two days ago I responded to a comment here where someone said the solution was for people to "just negotiate better". Right.

That's why I am for unions. Get professionals to negotiate on the workers' behalf, and have everyone agree on precisely the factors (experience, etc) that should be used for determining salaries. Then nobody is dependent on either the goodwill of their employer or their own bargaining skills for a fair salary.

In this specific case the person didn't know she was underpaid. Once she found out she pointed it out and got more money. She wasn't dependent on sponsorship.

In other words, the way to deal with an company which is behaving unfairly towards you is to tell them a piece of information they already know, and then depend on them becoming more fair.

You’ll understand why I’m suspicious. If this worked reliably, why would anyone need to file a lawsuit over $400M in lost wages? Wouldn’t the company have just fixed the problem when they first saw it?

Unions exist in fields and countries where wages are more transparent, too. Transparency is necessary, but not sufficient. That’s why we have a free press, but also elections and courts.

"In other words, the way to deal with an company which is behaving unfairly towards you is to tell them a piece of information they already know, and then depend on them becoming more fair."

You don't depends on them but on an individual basis you can point this out and often you can correct this for yourself. They will still try to screw other employees. And yes,unions are a good way of ensuring this doesn't happen.

No, they shouldn't threaten to leave the company.

Instead they should get a competing offer, that pays way more, and actually leave the company.

Visas are easily transferred between companies.

That sound great, if we assume all these workers knew they could, and has the time and resources to do so, and if Silicon Valley companies weren’t literally conspiring to keep wages down for workers who tried to switch companies.

Corporations have professionals bargaining on behalf of the company. Every solution I hear that doesn’t involve professionals actively bargaining for the workers is putting them right back at the mercy of the company.

You should be careful with that though, because it can cut both ways. I was a part of a company early in my career where certain people were being paid less than others, only the thing was that the big, BIG, bosses didn't know about it. They were told what the average pay was, but they thought that was the pay level that all of the workers were receiving.

Long story short, when the whole thing came out, imagine their surprise, (and delight), to discover a class of workers who would happily work for cheap. The big, BIG bosses proceeded to demand that everyone take a paycut. (Well, everyone who was making more than the average.) So a whole lot of colleagues ended up leaving and looking for other jobs etc.

In the end, it didn't really help the people on the bottom at all. I was just a lowly intern, but that experience definitely taught me a lesson about how the corporate world works.

At one workplace, I and a bunch of others were software leads/managers who rose up through many years hard work, promotions and raises. A new VP of engineering joins and finds out about our salary during the next review. He berates us individually why were are paid so much. What he didn't realize is the team leads did the heavy lifting for development at this company. Many of us said nothing and just looked for new opportunities. From what I heard, projects quickly fell behind schedule, got cancelled. The VP was eventually fired.

And he probably just moved on to a new opportunity.

I've looked him up. He is working on a "startup" idea but I don't think he has gone anywhere with it.

It sounds like the system worked as intended.


I guess I never thought about it that way.

"I was a part of a company early in my career where certain people were being paid less than others, only the thing was that the big, BIG, bosses didn't know about it. "

That's pretty weird. Usually the bosses know what everyone is making or can find out. Looking at cost is one of the main duties of a boss.

Not that weird. There are lots of employees and the big bosses tend to only see birds-eye views like project/staffing budgets. They care if a team of 10 costs 2.5m/year. They don't dig into why unless they have a problem with the budget to begin with.

Interesting. In any case, bosses already have salary transparaceny if they care so giving transparency to employees wouldn't change this particular case.

They don't have the need to dig into individual salaries, only once they want to start optimize (read: where to cut down) the salaries. Otherwise, it doesn't help with overall goals.

I worked at place where we did stack ranking, but added a formula that basically divided rank by salary. Anyone making more than about 1.2 times the average of their piers had to constantly justify it.

That should include everyone up through the top. Including their options and bonus etc.

I have read studies that once CEO compensation got public as it is required now it shot through the roof. Makes sense to me. If you hear about someone in similar position making more money you can ask for the same.

not everything is your title+tenure; someone with the same profile might not have the same impact as another. I could see someone getting upset about another person making more and thinking they should be equals when the other person has a greater positive impact on the organization. I'm not as much a fan of open transparency for all positions, including options and bonuses, as I am in favor of published ranges for each position that are reflective of the overwhelming majority of folks in that role at that company.

That doesn't really solve the problem of the opposite situation, nor of the one that was originally under consideration: when a worker with greater impact is paid less, or when workers of similar impact are compensated differently. For that, you do need an accurate understanding of how your peers are compensated. I make less than peers I objectively outperform, and I would not have known unless they had told me personally. If that information had been accessible during my last review, I would have pressed for higher pay, but now that that's passed, both I and my employer have to worry about what my next step is. This could have been avoided if they'd been more transparent up-front.

"I make less than peers I objectively outperform"

From my experience you can go to management and tell them that you think you should be paid X. If that's within the normal range you often get the raise.

At my first company in the US I was told that everybody is making as much as I was offered so I said yes. After half a year I found out that most people made 30% more. I talked to my CTO and told him that I want more and I got more than 30% without much hesitation. I wouldn't worry about asking for more. They won't fire you.

With salary transparency, wouldn’t everyone be paid less? (Not a challenge, just a curiosity.)

Salary transparency already exists, just that it works one way only: the employer knows everyone's salary and they thoroughly research the salaries paid by their competitors.

As a general economic principle, I can't really see any situation where this information asymmetry works to the benefit of the workers. It might benefit some employees in critical positions that can bridge the information gap and gain an advantage over their peers.

But on average, no, transparency reduces the leverage of the employer; else they wouldn't fight to maintain that information differential, they would promote full transparency in order to pay everyone less as you say.

>they thoroughly research the salaries paid by their competitors

How do they go about this? Through means accessible to individuals?

You just go out and buy the information. It's not really available to individuals.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a lot of data, not that granular but by region and larger city it is very good: https://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm

Equifax will sell you an individual's data. Like "this guy with this social security number had this yearly salary".

Think about all the times you've told a recruiter/hiring manager your previous salary (don't, btw). Think about the HR teams and such at your company that have access.

Shrewd people can get this data, especially if they're willing to pay for it.

Most people I know just lie and add 20+ percent. If you are moving to a different market...they add 50 percent of the real salary.

There are market research firms that specialize in this area. It's useful to have such information, so it has monetary value - money presumably saved by underpaying or avoiding overpaying your workers. It's not something the average employee would afford in money and effort to research.

It's a good question how the data is obtained. Maybe through mutual data sharing agreements in exchange for access? Anyway, I've see such reports for my country, with very detailed breakdowns for job types, seniority, broad technology area, forecasts etc.

Companies use information services in order to pay appropriately. They neither want to overcompensate and drive higher wages nor do they want to under compensate and lose staff to competitors.

You can get pretty reasonable numbers, especially in the software industry, just using the freely available H1B visa salary data. All employers using these visas have to disclose the title, salary and location for an employee hired on one. In my experience for companies I'm familiar with these numbers are usually pretty accurate.

> https://h1bdata.info

Thanks so much, this is the career advice database I have been looking for for years. Whenever people ask me what they should do when they graduate, I have to base my response on broad government surveys that, for example, lump every single natural science in to a single salary category. With this, I can even make charts.

There are companies out there who organize salary surveys.

Every company pays in a bit to cover the costs/overhead with putting together a market report, and also submit the job titles and salaries of their workers. Possibly more data too, but I'm not certain. E.g. time with the company or years of relevant experience would be very handy.

Check out imercer.com. Depending on how you look at it it may start to look like a a middleman for cartels.

It’s complicated. Keeping salaries secret no doubt makes it more tenable to pay people who sit next to one another vastly different amounts. In a knowledge worker job where some people are way more productive than others, plus the same person’s productivity is highly variable over time, it’s probably good to pay people very different amounts of money over time, and also to have a complicated system of stock/bonus/promotions to incentivize better performance.

But companies aren’t just trying to maximize performance, they are also trying to minimize pay. It’s a lot easier to give someone a 20% raise if the starting salary is 50% lower.

Some people are underpaid because they don’t know how much they are worth, especially people from backgrounds where nobody makes this much money. Some people are overpaid because they are friends with the boss.

If a company is capable of paying $200k on average, salary transparency may make it harder for them to recruit people who are worth $500k. I’m paid a lot more than any company with a salary transparency calculator I’ve seen pays someone with my job title and experience. So I’m not going to try to work for those companies. I get the impression they are underpaying their employees, but their salary transparency allows them to recruit people who used to be even more underpaid.

I'd argue everyone gets paid more, as lower paid staff will churn more rapidly for higher paying positions, and in a tight labor market pay must rise to attract talent to roles.

With that said, you should always be interviewing for your next role, as you will never get a salary bump at an annual review near what you would make switching jobs. Always Be Interviewing. You are looking out for you first.

Why would you say that? I figured it would give employees more power in salary negotiations so I figured the salary would go up mostly.

If salaries are completely transparent, including external to the company, salary negotiation will all but disappear. You'll apply for a senior developer job, see that all the senior developers there make $95k (or whatever), and you're either okay with or you're not.

The flipside, which is largely why I am not in favor of legally enforced salary transparency, is that you ask for the salary range, they say $90-100k (or whatever), and you can justify why you should get 100 or 105 or 110 with examples. Or you can ask for $90k because you're happy with that and know you won't price yourself out of the position, or any number of other possibilities.

It just makes the entire process much less flexible, which I know a lot of us developers love, but in the business world it doesn't make much sense.

Salary transparency doesn’t require salary equality. Sure, if all Senior SWEs are making $95K, you just don’t apply there. In the more likely case, seniors are making a spread of $80-160K or $90-225K or whatever and you can decide where your likely value may land in or just outside that range.

>You'll apply for a senior developer job, see that all the senior developers there make $95k (or whatever), and you're either okay with or you're not.

But then one senior developer would claim that they are better or different than every other senior developer, and negotiation would return. Sure, Tim might be willing to accept the average rate of $95, but Jim worked as a staff engineer at Google, and so on.

That's not how it works out in real life. For example, in Congress all staffer salaries are open. There are still huge differences for the same position and people don't revolt over being paid less. They also don't jump ship when they find out.

The problem is that the information asymmetry implies that you might be worth 95k in the market, but you're much less likely to know that than the company making the offer, and accept 80k not realizing you've lost out on 15k. It gets further against you if they do things like asking your previous pay.

In general, you would expect salary negotiation to be worse for any given employee, because they have limited tools to research with compared to the hiring company, and far more limited (man) hours to do that research.

I would also imagine negotiation still exists, but now more emphasized on the extra benefits, eg PDOs, medical plans, bonuses, etc.

And ofc the added negative that the company can hide unfair practices, eg underpaying particular groups, or hiring someone's kid for 2x the pay, or whatever.

The main negative is that someone who was skilled at salary negotiations now makes less, but presumably most people aren't skilled, making it more a net positive. The biggest concern tbh is if the whole industry was overpaying its workers due to the fog of war, and this suddenly cleared things up, and employees across the board take a hit

> legally enforced

No, keep the Government out of this.

Because in most cases there are some or even many people who are available to work for less. The management then would argue that "you can't earn more than they do for the same work, everyone would have to get a raise but there is no justification for that". Secrecy makes it an individual discussion as a by-product.

In either case, managers would not entertain talk about a raise unless there ware actually not that many people willing to do the same work for less. So a secret negotiation allows them to hide that information from the rest of the workers and only compensate those aware of their market worth. An open negotiation would not lower compensation for the latter since they can always just quit, it would raise salaries for the less informed.

It would make the currently less informed more informed about this topic.

It’s not clear whether that would lead to them negotiating for more money.

We do have a couple examples of companies that are transparent with salaries or comp plans (Buffer, Gitlab, even places like Basecamp).

Nowhere with open published comp numbers has ever come close to my comp. Maybe it would work better as a system if everyone was opted in but the current data points I see don't support higher salaries for people with my skillset.

>> she was making 40-50% less than new interns were getting out of college

This is called salary compression, and it's not unique to just minorities. Companies have to pay market to hire. They don't have to pay market to people who might be reluctant to leave, for a variety of reasons. It's fairly common for new hires to be earning significantly more than nominally "senior" employees who have been with the company for a decade or more.

Right. If you are doing the work at salary X then you have sent the signal that you are willing to do the work at salary X. The only way to send a new signal is to leave for a job paying salary X+n, then repeat the cycle in a few years.

In general, women tend to negotiate less aggressively (there's research supporting that), so if your friend was paid less, it doesn't necessarily mean there was discrimination.

The question is: is she as good at negotiating her salary as her male friends?

Also, it sometimes happens that the market's salaries increase over time, and new employees get paid more than the old ones. It's a difficult and well known manager's dilemma - I cannot hire a new person for the same price as the current employees, but if I have to raise everyone's pay first, I won't be able to hire the new person anyway.

So, the question is - did the interns' wages differ between them according to gender? Did she earn less than female interns, or male interns? How good/aggressive are the people you compare in terms of salary negotiation?

Women who do negotiate aggressively are often less likely to be granted what they ask for, also. There’s a new study I recall that women ask for raises at the same rate as men but are not granted raises at the same rate as men.

It depends. I have been penalized for negotiating as well as have been rewarded. I do remember distinctly irritating a hiring manager when I responded to her inquiry of "how much do you want to make" with "whatever is the prevailing market rate is" She wanted me to give her a number and I politely played hard ball not wanting to undersell myself. Anyway the hiring manager decided that approach made me difficult.

Women are often penalized for not being "nice" in the workplace as well. It may happen in the hiring process or show up later in performance reviews. It is a delicate dance of negotiating, being strong and being "non-threatening."

I would like to know if you've been penalized for negotiating as well as rewarded at the same or similar rates of your peers of various gender identities. Do you know that?

I would presume no negotiation tactic has a perfect 0% or 100% success rate for any given gender expression, but I am curious about the relative rates for them and how this can best benefit all related parties.

In that study, was the statistical risk that a female employee would leave the company because not getting a raise the same as for a male employees?

Sounds like they don't negotiate efficiently. "Please give me a raise" is not efficient negotiation, no matter how aggressively or often you say it.

Note that aggressive tactics are not as effective when women do them. We also have studies that state that women who attempt to be assertive similar to men are not received as well as men. So women are disadvantaged because there is no way to ask for a raise or negotiate as effectively as a man in the general case.


Please suggest an efficient negotiation that is proven to work for women at the same rates as it works for men.

There is no efficient negotiation technique that works consistently for men either, you need to understand that people need to look at their situation and figure out the optimal solutions for themselves rather than expect others to give them everything w/o effort, like a forced salary bump based on gender (that's one way to ruin anything remotely close to pay based on merit - hypocrisy much?) would.

Now I realize it's part of human nature to try and get as much as possible for as little as possible, but this takes it way too far.

You must be really daft if can you look at a bunch of stats like "women are paid 30% less than men" and then tell yourself "YES! this is a problem that I completely understand, I understand everything about this and what these people say is exactly what happens in the real world, we have to fix this".

What the hell does "as assertive as men" even mean. Is it some caricature of a man stomping his boss' desk to establish dominance? You're either assertive naturally or you're not, this applies to men or women. Fakes are easily spotted and ignored. Socially withdrawn/inept people or autistic people constantly draw the short straws when negotiating because there's no chance for them to be even close to remotely assertive even though in a STUDYYYYY the "scientists" could claim that "they were as assertive as others" just because they tried (unsuccessfully — a detail so easy to omit/ignore). You don't just go "ok now I'm going to be ASSERTIVE" and suddenly have everyone go your way, if you haven't developed that ability since childhood (or at least for a damn while), at which point you're using it by default.

Jfc, we live too relaxed lives, we have no problems so we invent some.

You haven’t answered my query and your response is presumptuous. My claim is not as absolute as you seem to believe it is. My claim is that on a systematic level, the rate of women attempting to gain more opportunities for better pay, even when using the same negotiation strategies as men, has a smaller success rate than men in the general case. You said this is due to ineffective negotiation tactics.

So, in order to show that this is not specific to gender bias, I am asking you for a negotiation tactic whose rates of success and reception do not have a correlation with gender. If you cannot provide this then I will assume your claim is sourced out of your behind, which has even less clout than the scientists you express chagrin for (at least their stuff has been peer reviewed).


My statement does not imply that there are negotiation strategies for men. It is the same negotiation strategies that men also use. If you can show me a specific study where there is effective negotiation strategies that do not have correlation with gender, then I’d like to see that. Otherwise you’re doing the equivalent of being a new hire at a codebase and complaining it’s shit without taking time to understand any of it. Without appropriate statistical analysis of a situation there is no way to objectively confirm or deny a phenomenon existing. This will be my final response as I don’t believe you are engaging this discussion with a rational mindset.

Your current correlation with the gender is forced, unless you exhausted any other possibilities. Which I really freaking doubt, because you know, real world complexity and all.

Assuming the one thing that I'd be willing to give at least A BIT OF credence to, that is in the gender-related sphere, that women more commonly have personality traits that make them worse at negotiating, I still don't see why we should try to fix that on the employer's side. Educate the women to negotiate instead, from a young age. Giving rewards to those who don't deserve them will lead to sloppiness and bad quality work, and the outrage of those who deserve them.

Sounds to me like "it has to be correlated to gender" was a quick solution to get some quick stats published.

I would suggest that flirting probably works more effectively for women. While not salary negotiations, it certainly seemed to work during the TV show the apprentice for other negotiations. I never saw any men use that tactic.

You can play this game all day, at what point is the other party at fault?

Possible counterpoint conclusion: when a woman says "please give me a raise" and a man says "please give me a raise" people are more likely to listen to a man.

You're injecting a whole lot of assumption on how these negotiations are happening.

Who the hell says "please give me a raise"? You've already put yourself in a position of weakness, man or woman.

I deserve a raise because...3 reasons. I have accomplished xyz and want a raise.

In my younger years I said I wanted a raise of 20 percent immediately after telling my manager that I told a coworker "to go fuck himself" twice.

You're basing this off of statistics that ignore how these negotiations happen. Or really any sort of nuance that makes a difference in the real world. Like the quality of work the individual outputs or how much the company needs them, or how well they're perceived by their peers overall, or just how smartly they approach their employer when negotiating.

"Please give me a raise" is not a negotiation. To negotiate properly you need a trump card, "please give me a raise" doesn't show one.

> In general, women tend to negotiate less aggressively (there's research supporting that), so if your friend was paid less, it doesn't necessarily mean there was discrimination.

That's not a given. Courts tend to look at end results, not how you get there.

>In general, women tend to negotiate less aggressively (there's research supporting that), so if your friend was paid less, it doesn't necessarily mean there was discrimination.

The real question is why aggressive negotiation for doing the same job should lead to fairly different salaries. Forget gender, race, etc. If I can negotiate a higher salary than my coworker who does the same job, I'm not seeing a really good reason why I should get paid more.

If we are going to normalize this reason, then it's two faced for a company not to mention it. When it comes to the internal dialogue, performance reviews, etc, are all about the work you did, and how it impacted the company. If aggressive negotiation is a valid strategy, I would like the company to be transparent about it. List it at the same level as your work performance when listing the criteria by which you are evaluated.


Too many of us treat salaries as a game. When we play board games, we often accept rather arbitrary rules. One of the rules that many put on this salary game is: "Well, he gets more pay for the same work because he can negotiate well". Somehow, we don't accept it as a rule in the "school game": "Well, Alice got a higher grade than Bob on this essay because she negotiated better. She brings me two apples a week, and recently threatened to stop giving me apples and give them to Ms Brown of geography."

I'm not, BTW, arguing against negotiating if you're an employee. I'm arguing that companies paying significantly different for similar work just because of negotiation prowess is fundamentally an admission that "Yes, we will pay people differently for the same work." It shouldn't need to become an issue where one group (women, here) feels disadvantaged. It's a problem even if there is no systemic bias. The appropriate thing for the company to do when an employee shows that the market is paying better is to do a salary adjustment (if they can afford it) for all similar employees (barring small deltas for individual performance differences). Without this attitude, they are fundamentally creating an "us vs them" scenario ("company" vs "employees"). Sooner or later, that mentality leads to a large amount of cynicism and an unwillingness to view themselves as a cohesive group ("I'm just going to do my job - I don't care about corporate goals, and am not here to improve the company beyond what they pay me for").

> The real question is why aggressive negotiation for doing the same job should lead to fairly different salaries.

Because the most effective and stable reason to use in negotiation is that you are better and more valuable than the field of other employees and applicants.

There are multiple people with the job “MLB pitcher” or “NFL quarterback” and all their salaries are public. Is it surprising that some of them make wildly more than others?

I think the range of talent and ability for people with the job “senior software engineer” is much wider than the range of talent of “NFL quarterback”.

Because, if you are a knowldege worker, even if you have the same job title you are not doing exactly the same job. There are really two choices here:

- allow people with the same job title (e.g. "Software developer") earn different salaries

- introduce fine grained competence levels (e.g "Software developer, level 23") and require promotion, based on detailed performance review, for every single request for a raise.

I prefer the former, because I don't like bureaucracy, but non-discrimination advocates are pushing towards the latter.

"So imagine if white women are underpaid - it is a lot worse for people for color."

How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Probably extrapolating from anecdotal evidence (possibly including personal experience). Also, some studies have shown systemic underpayment of minorities.




If you want to be paid what you're worth, plan to interview regularly. That is the only sure way. The promotion game is by and large for suckers.

Do either of you have an opinion on the cause of being underpaid? e.g. Is there a corporate plan to pay women less?

That's almost never the case. It's not some evil cabal in a boardroom deciding to do bad things. It's almost always a combination of tons of societal and cultural factors that compound on each other.

You can imagine that their mid-level manager probably didn't fight for them as hard, perhaps due to some bias. Said manager may have evaluated said employee more harshly in yearly reviews as well without realizing it.

Their peers may have essentially done the same, lowering their perceived performance. Their peers may have also essentially boxed them out, making it more difficult to succeed.

Projects may have been handed to employees that were not underrepresented. This happens often, and is a strong motivator for career growth.

The hiring manager(s) originally responsible for bringing on the employee may have used algorithms or generally biased data that showed them the potential hire could be acquired at a low salary.

These are only small pieces of the puzzle, and may or may not be part of what happened at Oracle. They're all small/insidious factors that may not even be detectable or measurable at an individual level, but if you pay attention to larger trends, you can start to see them.

So Oracle is worse than screwing over customers and just awful quality of their database. They are now actively screwing over their employees!

Remind me why they are so widely used again?

Vendor lock-in, and buying IP from companies who had much better records. People in open source have been pissed at Oracle since they pissed on OpenSolaris and started suing everybody who uses Java after buying Sun.

Oracle is famous for having a corporate philosophy of "make lots of money, nothing else matters".

Larry Ellison is famous for being a selfish megalomaniac: he owns an island on which hawaiian natives labor for him as serfs, and he has made two donations to charity in his whole life: one in exchange for dropping charges in a security fraud scandal, and one to establish an anti-senescence research institute for his own use.

Don't take a job at Oracle, don't buy their products when possible, they are the back alley mobsters of silicon valley.

Long time employees are naturally severe underpaid. The long timers around who recently finally left our BigCo got 2-2.5x raises into 350-500+ range, male or female.

What are you doing where people are making close to 2x what you need to be in top 1% of income?

2x top 1% of income would be like 900k household.

It is more rare for a single household to have two extremely high paid professionals, so a single income of 350-500k is not 2x of 1% income. It is in the 1% (~420-450k household or so).

Also 350-500k sounds about the right range for senior-ish at top large tech company as a software engineer.

You "only" need $300k (give or take) to be in the top 1% of individual income.

Edit to add:

> Also 350-500k sounds about the right range for senior-ish at top large tech company as a software engineer.

Senior"-ish," implying some not-so-senior folks are making $350-500k a year is absolutely ridiculous. But even barring that, I know HN is home to many, many highly paid folks at large technical companies in SV making boatloads of money.

Most software dev jobs in the country top out in the $150-200k mark for non-managerial, senior high-level architectural type jobs. Very good senior devs in my area are $110-135. I've never personally seen a salary or heard someone claim they made anything higher than $185. Surely they exist but they're well above-market or have extremely specialized skills that make it borderline impossible to get any sort of "market rate" for.

It's just a cost of living thing. One calculator says,

> A salary of $185,000 in Boise, Idaho should increase to $450,797 in San Jose, California


Total comp in the $200-300k range is common for seniors at tech companies in SV. But people tend to not understand exactly what that amount of money means here because it seems like so much money. It doesn't mean people in, say, Boise are underpaid or whatever, just that everything is way, way more expensive in the Bay Area.

Not everything. Housing and maybe some personal services.

Who is better able to afford to put his kids through college, go skiing every year in the Swiss Alps, buy a Ferrari, or retire in luxury in Florida--a guy who spent his career making $185,000 in Boise or making $450,000 in San Jose?

More money is still more money, the cost of housing notwithstanding.

I don't disagree that money is still money, as I do like my high bay area salary. It makes traveling, and my universally set priced items feel like pennies on the dollar.

However, I feel like you're are underestimating "some personal services". I don't have the time cook all my meals, I need to commute to get affordable housing, and I don't plan on just hanging out in the park everyday. So alas I find myself paying:

$15 for a simple saled

$11 roundtrip commute on caltrain

$100 for nosebleed seats to a band that was barely even considered famous during their heyday

These things really add up quick, and if you're not constantly careful about budgeting, you'll find yourself with less money than your counterpart in Boise.

Ok, you just spent $600 of your "high bay salary". How exactly are you planning to get down to $185k? Or you know, something more normal like $70k.

Americans and their ridiculous concept of what middle-class is, hilarious. You're rich, own it.

It costs about $3.5k/month to rent a two bed in the Bay Area, $1.2k/month per kid for the day care. Add in $1.2k for grocery, utlities, insurance, gas, car maintenance ..etc, and you are looking at around $7k a month with two kids. It would be closer to $9k with entertainment/vacation/car payments.

You are right that someone with 450k gross should be able to comfortably handle this. It is different story for the majority that make 250k or less.

At a similar lifestyle level, they’re probably close.

Most everything is indeed more expensive. Electricity, for example is nearly twice as expensive. I just looked up gas and Costco vs Costco is $.80/gal more. Insurance is more. Property tax rates are about the same but since the value of properties is so much higher you pay a lot more in real dollars. And since the basics are more expensive, everyone’s rates go up because they have to buy the basics too.

Do you or dmoy know of any publicly viewable data that supports such high comp packages being “normal” for average senior developers? Not anecdotes from highly paid HN readers. There are no doubt top people at outlier companies making that much but if you look at places like salary.com and glassdoor.com those figures are not average or median.

Think of average senior engineer Bob with a 10 year career, now working at mediocre tech company Xyz in Sunnyvale. There’s no way on Earth he’s making $300k.

Hot shot ML expert Alice working at Facebook? Sure!

How many more Bobs are there than Alices? 10x? 20x?


Median(?avg?) senior comp at Google is apparently 350k, 370k at Facebook.

That is reasonable for large top tech company, which was the original statement.

The original claim was about a "range" of $350K to $500K, implying that $350K was the low end, not average or median. Which sounds highly doubtful, even at top tech companies, and totally unheard of at most average tech companies.

Ok sure, one level above senior, average is 480k+. That's still not that high level. Especially since people will routinely make senior with like 6-8 years of experience.

So based on this comment and the one you made a few levels up, it is "routine" for someone to graduate college, go to Google, and 6 years later (when they're 27-28 years old) be making $370,000 a year?

I feel you are moving the goalposts a bit, but yes, for people who got in to top large tech companies.

The original statement I made was 350-500 is about in line with senior-ish at top large tech companies.

The levels immediately below senior brush against that boundary (I made 350k one year when the stars aligned, and wasn't senior), and the levels immediately above are averaging at the very top of that limit.

If you disagree with the data, that's fine.

Edit: dropping random extra prepositions

I have no illusions that the current gravy train will stay forever, but for now...

In particular because more comp comes from stock, it's extremely sensitive to a market downturn.

In the US, an individual with 300K+ income is in the top 1%. A household with 430K+ income is in the top 1%.

Sources: -DQYDJ (https://dqydj.com/who-are-the-one-percent-united-states/) -CNN (https://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/income-rank/index.html)

This is about individual employees leaving so the individual rate is most important; the source I had open (closed the tab) listed $300k for one year and $302k for the year after that as the benchmark for 99th percentile.

> 350-500k sounds about the right range for senior-ish at top large tech company as a software engineer.

holy hell. I am need to quit my job.

Is this really where software salaries have gone in the last few (2-4) years?? In the past month I have seen multiple comments or blog posts indicating compensation for senior engineers is nearly 500k.

Salary? No. Salary+bonus+stock? Yes.

In a word, yes. Though I can only definitely confirm it for Google and FB.

it isn't what, it is where. It is in SV. I don't know what it takes here to be in 1%. A former colleague got a unicorn recently - he probably would qualify. Half-a-mil does seem to allow to be a middle class here. At least this is what neighbors working at Google, FB, etc. and some friends/acquaintances from other places are.

> it isn't what, it is where. It is in SV. I don't know what it takes here to be in 1%. A former colleague got a unicorn recently - he probably would qualify. Half-a-mil does seem to allow to be a middle class here. At least this is what neighbors working at Google, FB, etc. and some friends/acquaintances from other places are.

What does any of that have to do with the national discussion above?

It properly answers the question that they replied to, "What are you doing where people are making close to 2x what you need to be in top 1% of income?"

S/He replied that it's not what you're doing, it's where you're doing it.

It's why judging on these income bands makes no sense. $300k household income with kids is comfortable but not rich in SV, but you'd be living like royalty in most of the rest of the US.

What defines rich? Private jets and Lamborghinis?

I’m not familiar with the SF cost of living, but Nerd Wallet says a 2 bedroom apartment is about $4k per month. I figured $7k is more accurate so I’ll assume $96k in rent per year.

$300k is roughly taxed at 75k for an individual with no exemptions and standard deduction. That leaves $225k of actual cash to spend or save.

Ok, so after rent and taxes we’re at about $129k. I see cost of living for food and transportation is higher than Texas, but I bet you also drive less. Does that fancy tech company provide meals once per day or more? I bet they do. So, you have $125k left to spend on food, transportation, bills, entertainment, and invest.

If you invest 20% of your gross income - $60k - you’re still left with $65k to spend on those things. That’s $5400 per month or so. I’d bet that buys a lot of $15 coffees and $30 lunches. Or hookers and cocaine, if that’s what you’re into.

Oh man, you grossly underestimate what we pay for taxes in CA. You forgot FICA (4.4% effective) and State tax (8.28% effective) for a total tax burden of $114,536. That leaves $185k of cash to spend or save, $89k after rent, $77k after a meager 4% 401k contribution.

Everything is more expensive. Insurance is more expensive. Gas is more expensive. Movies, ubers, doctors, groceries, sales tax, you name it.

While that leftover $77k isn't exactly hand-to-mouth poor by any stretch, compare it to some other state -- what is a fairly decent middle-class family wage in the Valley is a truly bonkers amount of money almost anywhere else in the US (or world, probably)

It is very expensive but still not that bad. I live in Silicon Valley too and I’ll say that $300k is a huge salary here. If I made that I could live extremely well in all but the most expensive Bay Area communities. Not private jet rich but far above a middle class lifestyle.

If someone’s struggling (EDIT: just comfortable) with $300k I don’t know what to tell ya.

I never said it was struggling, in fact I explicitly said it wasn’t. The context of the thread was... well, just read it.

You're right--edited. Thanks!

Very good point on other taxes. In Texas we don't have state income tax, so I forgot about those, but we do have property taxes and sales tax...

I haven't been to a movie in at least 4 years, so I don't really add things like that into my budgeting. Everything else.. sure, it's more expensive, but some of it is only 30-50% more expensive, and $300k is easily double the salary one would receive in most other states.

>What does any of that have to do with the national discussion above?

Long time employees are naturally severe underpaid - i think it is across the nation.

That does sound bad, but I would want to know more about the specific situation.

For instance, top law firms often pay interns the same salary as a first year associate (prorated for summer months, of course). That can be $180k/yr for some firms. My guess is that you could be a fairly senior paralegal, with arguably more responsibility and a greater impact on the firm, but still earn less than the summer associates. It would seem unfair, though I suppose the answer could be, well, go get admitted to the University of Chicago law school, give up three years salary and spend 200k on tuition, and get high enough grades to be hired into a top law firm, and we'll pay you at the rate of 180k a year.

This situation is starting to emerge in some Silicon Valley companies, where a bi-modal pay system similar to law is emerging. Just as graduates of lower ranked law firms might never earn a salary comparable to a first year associate from an elite school at a top firm, I have noticed that starting salaries for recent grads at Facebook may exceed what veteran programmers elsewhere earn. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to hear that the intern salaries are higher than some other job titles at the company.

Does the order of causality matter (either legally or ethically)?

What I mean to say is, the article suggests that Oracle hired women and minorities to "funnel" them into low paying jobs.

What if they set a very low wage and only minorities and foreign students were willing to accept those rates. Would that be just as bad?

The difference of course is that the former is a critique of Oracle whereas the latter is a critique of the industry.

This wording struck me as odd:

Oracle “impermissibly denies equal employment opportunity to non-Asian applicants for employment, strongly preferring a workforce that it can later underpay. Once employed, women, Blacks and Asians are systematically underpaid relative to their peers,” the complaint alleges.

Does that mean that people don't know the compensation associated with the position during the hiring negotiation?

I'm too cynical to see this as anything more than the first move by the tech companies themselves to push down waged for everybody in tech. Whether underrepresented minorities are being underpaid or not the net result of all of this will end up being everybody being paid less rather than a few people being paid more.

> I'm too cynical to see this as anything more than the first move by the tech companies themselves to push down waged for everybody in tech

What do you mean by first move? Google, Apple, Intel, Pixar, Adobe, Lucasfilm, eBay and Intuit were all found guilty of colluding to keep engineer compensation low[1][2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-Tech_Employee_Antitrust_L...

[2] http://fortune.com/2015/09/03/koh-anti-poach-order/

> What if they set a very low wage and only minorities and foreign students were willing to accept those rates.

That is literally what the trial is intended to determine.

E: Clarity

> “These students required work authorization to remain in the United States after graduation,” the suit alleges. “In other words, Oracle overwhelmingly hires workers dependent upon Oracle for sponsorship to remain in the United States.”

Tech company abuses H1B or other visas to underpay staff and undercut local labor market? Not surprising.

The fix to this is give more rights to H1B workers, so they aren't stuck with one employer, rather than not letting them come in the first place.

Why not just have immigrants, who come to the US as free and full citizens, at liberty to decide on a job in response to personal preferences and market signals? If that means going to med school or becoming a florist instead of working in the valley as a dev, that's the market's answer. This whole notion that there's a "shortage" because people won't do this at a price Oracle has decided is reasonable is astonishing to me.

About 1.2 million immigrants come to the US every year. Unfortunately, these free folk don't appear to want to become devs in the valley at the rate Oracle thinks they should, any more than the people born in the US.

The problem is that immigration slots in the US are generally based on family reunification, and don't come close to meeting demand. But a bug can always be a feature. I think tech companies like this. It creates scarcity, which makes their control over one of the few avenues into the US very lucrative. They can use this to ensure that would-be immigrants are not in fact able to participate freely in labor markets, but are beholden to corporations for their right to stay in the US and not be deported.

If H1B workers had the same rights and could demand similar salaries as their local counterparts (while also requiring additional effort and costs to hire) I suspect you would find that firms wouldn't hire very many H1B workers. in effect both policies have the same result.

> If H1B workers had the same rights and could demand similar salaries as their local counterparts (while also requiring additional effort and costs to hire) I suspect you would find that firms wouldn't hire very many H1B workers.

They they shouldn't hire them. The H1-B program isn't meant to allow firms hire foreign workers at low salaries, even though it's abused to do that. It's meant to help fill real skills shortages (and if there's a real shortage, firms should be more than willing to pay a premium to satisfy their unmet demand).

FAANG would hire same or more, my previous employer who treated H1B as slaves would hire fewer. I'd say both of those things are positive developments.

Eh, I suspect they would. Talented people are born throughout the world, and historically, an 'unfair advantage' of the US has been our ability to attract them. Look how many big companies were founded by a 1st or 2nd generation immigrant.

It'd be a great way of letting the market figure out how many work visas we need, in any event, rather than having a number someone plucked out of their ass.

That assumes no local candidate can do the work, there will be some exceptions but why hire someone is more of an administrative hassle with greater costs for no benefit? If the person in question is somehow better than a local candidate by enough of a margin to justify the costs then they probably are priced incorrectly. (IE miss classified as a junior dev as opposed to a senior)

I'm pretty happy to let companies and candidates figure that out. If companies are only hiring foreigners because of "cheap!", greater H1B freedom would curtail that - or possibly just lead the company to open an office in another, cheaper country. I don't think it's really the business of the government to decide who is worthy and who isn't.

The entire point of H1B is to allow companies to hire skilled workers when there's shortage of said skill in the US. If the company suddenly doesn't hire H1B once they're forced to pay them equally, then you know their real motive.

Why? What's wrong with not letting them come in the first place? It would create more opportunities for people already here, and increase demand for education that leads into this career.

> It would create more opportunities for people already here, and increase demand for education that leads into this career.

You're wrong on both counts, because the economy is not a fixed-size pie. Higher education benefits a lot from foreign students paying full price.

This is fairly settled economics.

Oracle only has so many position to offer, if they're going to H1B applicants, they are not going to other people already looking for jobs here. The fairly settled economics of supply and demand say that having all those extra workers will drive wages down. At the very least, let's shut it down for a while and see how things go. It's not like it's a decision fixed in stone.

> At the very least, let's shut it down for a while and see how things go. It's not like it's a decision fixed in stone.

Sure, let's also let some of the passengers fly the plane because hey, they did it in a video game.

Learn about it before you go and try and wreck the system.



These economists can't even predict the past, and you're throwing around these slogans like they're laws of nature. And slowing down H1B visas will not "wreck the system", that's just hyperbole; it can be restarted any time. Anyway, the resolution of this Oracle case will be revealing. It will be interesting to see how it affects H1B policy.

Actually what I did was link to several articles which include a lot of reference materials, but as the saying goes:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Here are a few more






When CATO and Paul Krugman agree on something, MAYBE it's worth paying attention.

A friend of mine got a copy of the H1B petition that Oracle submitted on his behalf. The document includes a DOL classification of his job and the minimum wage for it and the amount Oracle was offering him.

My understanding is that the law says the wage being offered must at least meet the minimum wage specified by DOL

Have you ever looked at the DoL classifications? Very easy to make a level 3 "software engineer" at 135k a level 1 "programmer" at 65k and everything in between depending on your comfort. And it's all above board and by the law.

Aren't the DOL classifications nationwide with no COL adjustment? $65k is entirely reasonable for entry level work if you're averaging across the entire country, as is $135k for senior level work.

If a company is following a bad law doesn't it make more sense to make the law better than lambaste the company for hand-wavy "abuse?"

BLS (which is what most employers use as supporting wage data. Some employers provide their own sources which is a whole other can of worms) allows you to search by "metropolitan statistical area."


For instance a level 1 "programmer" in SF makes about 70k. A level 4 "Software Developers, Systems Software" makes about 158k...

My point is that the argument that h1b employers must and therefore do pay the prevailing wage is incomplete with out knowing the employees skills and the wage data the employer chose to set as the prevailing wage.

Here's a followup[0][1] to the OFCCP vs Google suit mentioned in the article. Google showed it would cost more to produce the data than the value of the Federal contract, so OFCCP did not get complete access.

[0]: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/...

[1]: https://outsolve.com/blog/alj-rules-in-ofccp-vs-googles-deni...

I was curious to see what the OFCCP asked for and it seems like an insanely huge undertaking to compile it, which was probably why the court ruled "OFCCP's request was not reasonable and was unduly burdensome." My favorite one is a tie between "salary and job history for each employee going back to the founding of the corporation in 1998 for any long-term employees" without defining long-term employees (perhaps OFCCP did define it?) and "the name, address, telephone number and personal email of every employee" in the 21,000-employee 2015 snapshot or the 19,539-employee 2014 snapshot.

Actually, I work at a public school district that has about 800 employees for 8,000 students and I help maintain the FIS/HRMS.

Going back 10 years for this information would be pretty trivial for us. Our systems already have reports that do the above. The name, address, telephone, and personal email is basic demographic information in an HR system.

Yes, I can imagine the kind of complexity that would arise in a 25 fold increase in personnel, but, if anything, the data systems would have more historical data in them. Financial records retention typically involves manually purging records rather than the opposite. After all, you've got to store at least two years of information just to be able to handle taxes and auditing.

It's all saved in the system and date tracked appropriately. Going back longer than that would be difficult, but that's only due to records retention laws. We're not required to maintain most personnel records longer than about 7-8 years (though some go as long as 50 or more, such as the types of records that pensions require).

Then again, I'm also familiar with FOIA requests, and I'm aware than at least 50% of the cost is probably going to be the cost for lawyers to vet the information before release.

both of those would easily fit into one excel spreadsheet, it's silly to think that a company like Google would not be able to produce that easily. The OFCCP may have had a better shot if they said 99.99% of Google employees, instead of every one of them.

Doesn't seem that expensive to comply with this.

It doesn't seem this would be an undue burden for a company that was keeping proper records.

The court shouldn't care what kind of burden it is for a company whose records are a mess. Giving into that creates a moral/regulatory hazard.

Imagine that you’ve changed payroll vendors, HR system vendors twice, and payroll/HR leads 5x across the timeframe in question. Now how hard/costly is it?

Doesn’t Oracle sell a widely used financials package? I’m guessing they eat their own dog food.

Ok, let me put this from another viewpoint. (I do not work for/endorse Oracle.)

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Asian students (~90% Indian and Chinese) flock to US universities for grad studies. They work hard, get a good GPA and want to continue their stay here. When they apply for jobs, the pool is very very limited because not all companies want to carry the burden of VISA/lawyers/immigration etc.

Oracle is one of the handful of big firms that feed on such students. They have the capital and resources to carry the immigration burden. And they hire students in bulk. I personally know a lot of students-turned-Oracle employees from all major universities.

At that point, the students just want to stay in the US legally, salary takes a backseat. They know the fact that if they can stay for long, money will eventually come.

Sure, the free market might allow it, but discrimination is something we don't tolerate here.

This is a hard question to ask because of how touchy this subject is, but I promise this is a question born out of a situation I personally was in.

Does there need to be discrimination for the result to be skewed in this way? The way I read the parent, immigrant employees are willing to do more for less due to a logical judgement about their situation, and from a pool of "Available jobs" may chose to throw a wider net, where someone who has more leeway can be pickier. (In my situation, I was making negligible money and when offered what seemed like a _mind-blowing_ salary of 3x my prior, accepted off the bat, without realizing until much later that I was being paid far below the rate of both my cohort and my experience level for the work being done)

> I was making negligible money and when offered what seemed like a _mind-blowing_ salary of 3x my prior, accepted off the bat, without realizing until much later that I was being paid far below the rate of both my cohort and my experience level for the work being done)

That still sounds like the company that made you the offer was exploiting you; they took advantage of your tough situation to pay you less than they would have if you had more leverage.

That’s called a win-win in negotiations.

Btw, all (well, most profitable) are always exploiting you - paying you less than you produce for the company. You’re also always exploiting the company - you’re making more money collaborating with pther employees than you would by yourself!

I don't think I'd call "getting paid less than my colleagues doing the same work because I'm more desperate" a "win-win"

I think, strictly speaking and without talking about the ethics of the situation, this would be a violation of a free market.

Safe working conditions also took a backseat to sheer survival for children toiling in 19th century mines. That’s no an argument for it being right, but for the need of hash enforcement of labor laws to soften the inevitable edges of a market economy.

Or is it? Look at cases where SEA countries were pushed to stop using child labor in their factories. It was done more by economic pressure than by law, but the end result was that those children ended up much worse off. To the companies that were pushing the economic pressure, is that a result they were okay with?

What happened? I would naively imagine that if factory owners were forced to stop employing children, they would in turn hire more adults, which would drive wages up for the parents? It sounds like something else happened.

One of my coaching clients is a founder of a large SV tech company.

I love their salary negotiation method.

They have a top end in mind and will give the person the job if they agree on anything up to the amount.

They leave room for negotiation as some people need to feel like they negotiated well.

If you don’t negotiate your pay up to 100% the preset amount, after you accept the job they just tell you they are paying you more (the 100%).

Both people are happy in this set up.

So no matter what happens during the "negotiation", the end result is always predetermined? They could just cut the silly game and come out and say what they are going to pay.

The comment stated why they do this and it's a real reason: some people want to negotiate. They're happier being offered 100 and negotiating up to 110 vs being offered 110 outright. This may be the tipping point of accepting or not.

Yes, exactly this.

Some candidates would reject the offer if they weren’t given the experience of negotiating more for themselves.

This strategy emerged over hundreds or thousands of hires as the founders came from bigger companies before this one.

I had the same question. And he said that for some people they will be unhappy or even reject the offer if they don’t get the experience of negotiating up.

It’s perhaps not rational, but humans aren’t always rational. So building that irrationality into your strategy is a rational thing to do ;)

It’s unclear if employees / candidates know this at all, which is why I didn’t name the company.

What real incentive do they have to go all the way up to 100% on behalf of the employee? If they ended up at 90% they could probably add 5% and get a very similar result (employee happiness).

They want people to be paid what they are worth to them in that role regardless how well they negotiate - it’s an investment in the culture.

The incentive is to create an actual loving and supportive culture which they believe pays off. They also feel like it’s the right thing to do given their values.

They are one of the top rated corporate cultures in the world and recently valued at around $2B 10 years in.

Maybe less resentment if employees compare salaries

This is an amazing way to run a company. I love it.

I interviewed at Oracle, was made an offer but didn't take it. I know people who took the offer. My knowledge/experience is

1) For H1B, the offer made by Oracle was higher than the minimum wage guideline by DOL for those specific positions. You get a copy of the H1B petition submitted by Oracle and it includes all of this data.

2) Your salary is dependent on what you negotiated with your recruitment coordinator (Oracle will not change your figure once an offer has been sent to you). The recruitment coordinator makes an offer and you try as much as possible to counter. If you have prior work experience, you will most likely use your previous salary information as a basis for negotiation. I assume this figure you have quoted will form a basis for what Oracle will offer you. If you don't have prior work experience, then of course, they will make you an offer that they prefer.

3) Oracle pay increases are rare and typically small. This is why your starting salary is quite important because it basically forms the basis for your income for your years at Oracle


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Everyone is underpayed. The work you are doing are mostly going to the pockets who do nothing. Bitter truth.

Programmers should have a union.

Especially the ones that are working in the gaming industry.

>Oracle’s underpayment of certain employees is driven by the company’s reliance on prior salary information

Anyone know how that works exactly?

Discrimination is like compound interest, it builds upon itself. If you're a underrepresented minority, its more likely that at each stage of your career you've been low balled compensation wise, if a potential employer is going to use your previous salary as a baseline, there is no way out of the spiral that initially started with your first job.

> like compound interest

This is such a poignant and accurate way of describing this phenomenon. Thanks for this!

I assumed that was the case as far as the systemic problem goes.

Just wondering how Oracle was determining past pay, just asking? Using some site?

I assume they just ask, outside of the H1B database, I have not seen a 100% credible representation of salary data for tech workers. Even then, the H1B database is anonymous and you'd have to do a lot of work to try to pin someone to a salary range.

For the common man, negotiating really isnt a skill that has been developed. My girlfriend is interviewing with tech companies right now and I'm consistently reminding her to state a higher number not only if they ask for current salary (and to first off be diligent in not providing a number), but for the eventual negotiation upon job offer.

Also, most people really aren't in a position to negotiate, especially if they are in a discriminated class.

How does being in a discriminated class remove any of your "position" to negotiate? If the person interviewing you is objectively racist or sexist you're just not getting the job. But if you're talking about subconscious, systemic issues that's going to come up in initial offers but how is going to affect one's ability to negotiate?

And for what it's worth, while I am 100% on board with never discussing prior salary, I would advise against outright lying about it. On the chance that you're called out on it lying will most likely disqualify you immediately (and forever).

> How does being in a discriminated class remove any of your "position" to negotiate?

In my experience, I've done my best negotiating when I'm almost disinterested, which is usually when I have lots of other options. Someone in a discriminated class may not get that many offers, so they may not be able to play them against each other, or be comfortable pushing as far as they could given there's some risk of an offer being rescinded.

They've hired a total of 6 black people in the last 8 years and they claim they're an equal opportunity employer?

wtf. I call bullshit. Source? I regularly see people of all sorts of skin tone as oracle has an office visible from my window. Maybe it's a US thing

Read the lawsuit. Summary here: https://seekingalpha.com/news/3424872-u-s-sues-oracle-pay-di...

"According to the complaint filed today, Oracle hired around 500 people into tech jobs over a five-year period, and only five were Hispanic and only six were African American."

Correction: OP should have said 5 year period instead of 8 year period. Either way. That's averaging one black person per year.

Oracle isn't the only one, trust me

Positively shocking.

Leaving aside the merits of the underlying claim, the word "withheld" in the article's title seems a little misleading. I'd normally think of withholding wages as refusing to hand out paychecks which had been agreed upon.

From the body of the article, the OFCCP seems rather to be claiming that there's a differential in salary between female/black/asian employees and white male employees and that foreign-born employees on student visas worked disproportionately in entry-level jobs, which are lower-paying.

I agree, "withheld" is a specific term with a specific meaning when it comes to employee payments. The headline does NOT match reality at all.

OK, we've gone with “underpaid” as in, “Once employed, women, Blacks and Asians are systematically underpaid relative to their peers,” from the complaint.

Oh, great. Out of fairness to OP, the "withheld" wording was used in the source article, but think this title is probably clearer.

Agreed, sensationalist and inaccurate title. I find that when publications or blogs with massive readership do this, it reflects poorly on their potentially valid argument and editorship. A better title might be "Oracle purposely underpays minorities"

I felt the same way about the title. I went to read to see if they were actively holding back bonuses or something .... that isn't the case.

Oracle did something unethical (and illegal)? Zero surprise.


It's a gender-inclusive term for latinos and latinas, which themselves are terms mostly in use in the US.

I have not seen "Latinx" receive a warm welcome in Spanish-speaking countries, but it seems to be gaining traction in the US. I think it's pronounced, in English, "latin-ecks". I'm not sure anyone has attempted a Spanish pronunciation.


I would have guessed "la-tinks"...

Not surprised that this isn't popular where Spanish is the primary language. It seems to be a sort of "white feminist" thing, rejecting/correcting aspects of a non-Anglo culture for reasons that have no relevance in that culture.

It is only used by a tiny minority of people even in the US.

It’s mainly feminists / activists attempting to change the language. Many languages have masculine/ feminine words. Ie Latino/Latina and la/el. For them it is deconstructing the oppressiveness of genders but imo most don’t fundamentally think there is anything wrong with something being particularly masculine or feminine.

You know, maybe we ought to think twice before we tell a billion spanish speakers how they should or shouldn't talk?

Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting the mental image of some silicon valley kid with a 2 million dollar house telling people who live in corrugated-roof shacks that they're 'uninclusive'. And it pisses me off unreasonably.

Apparently a gender-neutral expression for Latinos as well as Latinas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latinx

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