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Is a Person’s Salary Considered Privacy Act Information?


Is a person’s salary considered privacy act information? reported that the California Supreme Court ruled in favor a newspaper seeking government job info and salary numbers of public employees. The ruling said that the city of Oakland must release the names, records of termination and salaries of police officers (who earned more than $100,000 in 2004).

Police officer unions claimed that this information on salary and payment should remain confidential due to privacy. However, Chief Justice Ronald George stated: “Counterbalancing any cognizable interest that public employees may have in avoiding disclosure of their salaries is the strong public interest in knowing how the government spends its money." Should government job info and salary be made public?

Are you being paid fairly? Check your salary, privately, with our PayScale Salary Calculator.

Government Salary Table: Hush-Hush

Media attorney Karl Olson, who represented the Contra Costa Times’ lawsuit, said, “I think this sets the rule for the state. These are landmark cases that serve the public’s right to know.” Indeed, this ruling will probably settle a similar lawsuit by the San Jose Mercury News against the city of San Jose.  That newspaper wanted the salaries (and names) of all San Jose city workers who earned more than a $100,000 annual salary.

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Government Job Info and Salary = Telemarketing?

On the other side, attorney Duane Reno, who represented the police officers, claimed that publicizing the salaries (and names) would expose the officers to unwanted sales calls. Apparently, Mr. Reno is unaware of the Federal “Do Not Call List”. Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said, “We are discovering that police departments across the country are increasingly withholding this kind of information.”

Government Employee Salary

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press previously joined the Los Angeles Times when it filed legal action against the California Department of Justice, when it refused to turn over a decade of police officer information and government employee salary stats. The Times was joined by other news organizations, such as the Associated Press, which also filed court papers to support the Times’ case.

Government Salary Scale On PayScale

Of course, the Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, or anyone else, can check out salary information on police officers at the PayScale research center. For instance, a sheriff or police patrol officer median hourly rate is as follows:

Of course, these are just median or typical hourly wages. We do not report how much, and which, officers are paid the most. Since exceptionally high pay may be an indication of poor financial management (too much overtime) or, worse, possible favoritism or fraud, it still is up to the reporters to get the detailed data from the governments directly.

How does your salary compare with Patrol Officer’s? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Dr. Al Lee

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