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I can remember years ago when "collusion" was taken very seriously especially in hot industries like high tech. I attended a well known high tech HR group meeting in CA. When the subject of pay came up and people started talking about various salaries for jobs, participants from one company got up and left the meeting. They said later they didn't want to give even the slightest appearance of participating in what might be construed as "collusion".

Even on an HR list serv moderated by a legal firm, people will ask the group about compensation for a specific role. I'm not too surprised because it was a group started as a resource for the small HR dept/ HR Generalist or Manager. Some HR professionals don't seem to be as aware of the ramifications of just asking around for rate comparisons. It seems harmless enough.

I worked for a healthcare organization that belonged to a local HR association, that started as an employee relations/benefits information sharing group before the internet age, who did a general wage survey every year. Problem was one of the members aggregated the information. When I became Compensation Manager, I said we could no longer participate. In order to continue the survey, my company which was a bit larger than the stand alone properties, offered to sponsor a third party survey. The 3rd party company charged a small fee per participant to recoup some of the cost. The cost was worth it to us to get local data while avoiding the collusion issue.

Of course, its okay for employees to talk to their counterparts about their rates, but not for employers to discuss them with their counterparts. Perhaps we can just ask our employees to discuss and report back to us! What do you think?

You also have to consider this aspect of information exchanges, Ann, as identified below by the FTC. So if your a small part of a large survey as defined below, for example, there is no need to get survey information that follows the guidelines.

"Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Agencies do not challenge a competitor collaboration when the market shares of the collaboration and its participants collectively account for no more than twenty percent of each relevant market in which competition may be affected."


Also, if you share the salary of an employee with another colleague and receive information in exchange, and that is the extent of your sharing, there is little likelihood the somebody can claim you are a part of a conspiracy to suppress wages.

Also just because you exceed the safe harbor guidelines doesn't mean you have per se violated the law, as the Detroit nurses case shows.



Interesting experience - thanks for sharing it. You'd think the recent legal action in Silicon Valley would be raising sensitivities again.


Thanks for your comment and experience. Agree that it is typically worth it - both from a legal and simply a confidentiality standpoint - to involve an independent third party, particularly if costs can be spread across group members.

Yes, indeed a little ironic that employees can talk and HR pros cannot - but I appreciate that this is a regulatory step taken in response to the perceived imbalance of power.


Interesting points and cases - thanks for sharing them and the links!

Appreciate the comments and conversation here!

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