Making Government Employees’ Salaries Public Information

Interesting article in the Washington Post today about LegiStorm, a site that posts the salaries of Congressional staffers (among other information). Naturally some are upset and feel this is an invasion of privacy. Other sites have made executive branch employees salaries available, such as the Washington Post, and more recently this newspaper company. State and local employee salaries have also been disclosed in some states, and non-profits have to disclose their five highest paid employees on publicly searchable IRS forms.

As a federal employee it doesn’t really bother me. I understand the privacy concerns, but we are paid with public money; maybe a better solution would be to make salary data at publicly traded companies easier to obtain (perhaps starting with the TARP recipients) as well. But what do you think? As a public employee do you feel this is unfair? Or as private sector employee would you mind having your salary disclosed to coworkers and the world?

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Adriel Hampton

All SF City & County salaries have been public for years, in searchable format. Loved it as a reporter, don’t mind it all as a public employee.

Allen Sheaprd

Well since KPMG audits have come in and found we are the lowest paid folks in the region but nothing has been done – Yes I welcome it. I have an ax to grind but feel a report like that being made public would help.

My fear is that it would keep others from not applying.

L P O'Neil

At State Dept the salary information is public. Allowances and other financial incentives for serving in difficult locations such as war zones increase salaries. The SES – Senior Executive Service – receives bonus money and who knows that it is or what the sums are based on. So, salaries are sort of transparent, but not completely.

L P O'Neil

I make so little (because I entered gov as an experienced person, without receiving job grade credit for decades of private sector work) that people would say, you do all that work for such a low salary!

I’d like to see private sector experience count towards job classification in government sector.

Jeremy Ames

Good point LP. Even state and local government service isn’t easy to count. Which makes it more difficult to recruit mid-level employees.

Denise Hill

Since the dawn of the General Schedule, the salaries of federal ee’s has been public knowledge. If you know the ee’s grade. One “ah ha” moment is when folks can see the actual salary along side a persons name. That makes it more real for some. The other is seeing the bonus and incentives.

Deirdre Murphy

Recently the local newspaper here in San Antonio caused soem controversy by making a searchable database available on their website of city employees and thier salaries. The original purpose was to “expose” the amounts of overtime being paid. However, it threatened to cause some employee morale issues too… I feel that since the public pays the salary it is well within their right to know how much people are being paid. All is quiet now – but the database is still on the paper’s website…

Margaret Sarro

Since I am a government employee working for the public I don’t have an issue with my salary information being shared, however if I was in the private sector I would feel differently. People in the private sector get paid often VERY differently and it could cause a lot of angst if you knew that the person next to you got paid.


We publish our salaries once a year…I know a number of our employees don’t like it, but we are required to do it. Our local school district also publishes their salaries once/year.

City Boy

I completely agree that the government needs to be transparent in salaries, but I’m very much AGAINST posting names with that data. Posting the numbers helps to keep government accountable, but names provides no added benefit except to those who misuse that information. For identity theft, it’s a dream come true. I know your full legal name, job title, employer and salary. A little more googling and I’ll have your home address. Your Facebook profile probably has your favorite color, high school, and all the other answers to security questions. Finding your mother’s maiden name is possible with all the family tree stuff out there. In the end, stealing someone’s identity isn’t that difficult, and posting names and salaries just helps those who would do bad things with the data–including bad guys in foreign countries. When will we all wake up to this?

Kohl S. Gill, Ph.D.

I’m completely supportive of wage transparency, in both the public and private sector. As Trunk says, “The only people who benefit from secret salaries is the human resources department. If they make an error, they can hide it. No one will know. And then they can make ten errors. Because no one knows if the secret salaries are hiding one error or one hundred.”

Kohl S. Gill, Ph.D.

Salary privacy, as a solution to identity theft, is flimsy at best. With enough googling, you don’t need someone’s salary to steal their identity. Data leaks by the companies themselves is more than enough to compromise your security. The goal here is transparency, and it’s important to keep our eyes on it. We should support wage transparency, just as we should be demanding that the organizations that handle our bank and credit accounts be transparent in how they manage those accounts. In the long run, transparency beats privacy, just about every time.

Anita Arile

I would prefer that employee numbers be utilized. The Government of Guam is one of those “state and local” governments that publicly discloses the employees name, salary, next increment date, information on the benefits received and total cost to employ the individual. I am very concerned about the privacy because when I “googled” my name (which I already know is in cyberspace due to my activities in other networks), I worrry about the salary and name information being used against me. But oh well, it’s out there already…

Deborah Kal

In California our salaries are a matter of public record if we work in the public sector. All of the negotiated Labor Agreements and/or Personnel Policies and/or Salary Schedules are also readily available by going to the web site of the Public Employer (local governement, special district, state) in question. Working in HR for years I was challenged with an interesting question by several employees when this public information was gathered and then transfered to a searchable data base by the newspaper. The questions were related to “safety” in the regard of domestic disputes and the clear identification of where someone works by listing their name, classification title, department, and local public sector employer along with the salary.

I do wonder why the private sector does not have to disclose salary and benefits paid to employees much the same way as the public sector. I understand the tax dollar issue. However, I do believe that most, if not all, public sector employees also pay income taxes, sales taxes, possibly property taxes and capital gains taxes.