Tag Archives: public salaries

Private Salaries That Are Really Public

So you’re a landlord looking to rent out your luxury apartment.  Or maybe you’re searching for wealthy investors to fund your business plan.  Or perhaps like me, you’re simply curious how much money people make.

So who are the high earners and what are their exact salaries?  You know from Sleuth For The Truth you can find out most government salaries.  But what about the private sector?  Tons of people work at private schools, universities, hospitals and major US companies.  Are these salaries up for grabs?

Good Reasons To Look For Salary Information
I know some of you are privacy lovers.  And no doubt, you think I’m a big meany for making this information public.  But there’s plenty of good reasons to want to know someone’s salary.  Here are just a few of them:

Negotiating Your Own Salary: If you know what the top people make, you know what to ask for.
Holding a Non-Profit Accountable:  Should I donate to them when the president gets paid 30% of all the funding?
Asset Verification During Divorce:  Are they hiding stock, a high salary or other financial interests they never disclosed to the judge?
Scouting Out Who Can Afford The Bill: Investors, estate planners and sellers of luxury goods waste their time and yours when they target the wrong people.
Pulling The Beard Off Santa:  Whether you’re a head hunter who’s been lied to, or a date who smells something fishy, it’s good to know when you’re being conned.

Now suppose you could find out this information with nothing but their name, their title and who they work for?  Say goodbye to asking their permission. That could be awkward.  And forget about a pesky credit check!  You wouldn’t need one.  You’d know it all without their knowledge, without their consent and without the hassle of explaining yourself to them.  But is this legal?  Is it even possible?

The three people you’re looking at all work in the private sector.  They all claim to make good money.   One says she’s a physician at Emory Hospital.  Another is the president of a private Christian school.  And the third says he’s the CFO at the Arris Group.  So you want to know:

  1. Are they telling the truth about their job title and where they work?
  2. How much money do they make?

Your trusty lawyer at Dewey, Cheatham and Howe says their salaries are completely private.  Since none of them work for the government, you won’t be able to confirm their salary without their consent for a credit check.  But is your lawyer right about this?  Wouldn’t it be neat if you could scope this out without getting their consent?  And to do it fast, easy and all for free?

Well, the good news is you can!  At least for two out of three of them.  The reason: SOME PRIVATE SALARIES ARE REALLY PUBLIC!!!  And this blog will show you how to find them.

What is a Private vs. Public Salary?
It’s critical to know the true definition of private vs. public.  When you do, you’ll be able to find salaries you never even thought to look for!

Most people think a salary is private because it’s personal to them. And some believe that since it’s personal, no one else should have the right to see it.  But let’s not get philosophical here. This blog is all about background checks.  And so regardless of what you personally think, we have to talk in realities.

Legally, a salary is private when no one is obligated to disclose it.  For example: a lawyer’s salary in a small law firm is private.  And likewise, so is the cashier’s at the family diner.  There is no legal requirement that these be published.

So unless someone blabs, (or it’s relevant in a lawsuit) you will never see these on the Internet.  But the good news is that people do blab!  And they blab all the time!  For exact salaries at various companies and in various positions, check out GlassDoor (click on the Salaries tab before you search).  On that note, you can also Google the company name and position along with “salary” or “salaries.”  Perhaps someone squealed and posted this juicy tidbit online.

Now let’s talk about honest to goodness public salaries.  If a private salary is one not required to be disclosed, a public salary is the opposite of that.  Yes, if your salary must be disclosed by either the government or an employer, then like it or not, it’s public.  We’re used to thinking that only the salaries of government workers are public.

But it goes way beyond that.  It also extends to publicly traded companies, non profits and foundations.  These too must disclose information on salaries.

Why you ask?   The answer is that these organizations have to be more transparent than others or they won’t receive certain financial benefits.  And that makes the salaries of their top earners very public!  Before we get to where to find these, here are some examples of  such.

Private Institutions That Must Publish Salaries
Did you know that many private schools, hospitals and private universities operate as non profits?  To receive tax deductions, most non profits must fill out an IRS 990 form.   But even exempt religious schools and churches may choose to voluntarily file a 990 for accountability reasons.

And guess what?  Part VII of this form requires they disclose salary information!  That’s right.  All filers must make public the “compensation of their officers, directors, trustees, key employees, highest compensated employees and independent contractors.”  This could be as few as 5 or more than 20. (Sometimes this info will be buried in a Schedule J near the end of the form).

So take Emory for example.  Emory is obviously a private university.  But the fact that they paid their general counsel $428,244 annually, is very public!  (see pp.16)  In fact, so is the salary of the Emory University President, the Dean and their top earning physicians.
For more, see the free links for Salaries: Foundations & Non Profits.

Publicly Traded Companies That Must Publish Top Salaries
Ever hear of companies that went public but then went back to being private again?  Well, there’s good reason for it.  When a company goes public, it’s now regulated by the Security Exchange Commission.  And this means more paper work and more public disclosures.  And guess what? They too have to disclose their top salaries. 

So with the three employees above, we can see as follows:
The salaries of the president of the Christian school may or many not be public.  In this case, it was.  (See Schedule J on p.39)  The Arris CFO is certainly public.  But the Emory physician’s salary is likely to be private.  That is unless she’s a top wage earner among their other doctors.

How To find Top Salaries in Public Companies
The great thing is there are two ways to find salaries:
1. Get a list of the top salaries within the organization, or
2. Search by the person’s last name, their company and the word compensation.

For how to search, click on this green link for David Potts CFO of Arris and then follow the instructions below:
1. Be sure to change the last name and your target company.  Then press enter on your keyboard.  At this point a list of documents will appear with your new key terms.
2. Scroll down your list for forms with salary information. Usually this is found in the 14DEF, 10K or 8K filings.  In this case the salary and stock benefits for David Potts were on the 14DEF.
4. Search by last name once you’re on the form.  (Sometimes these filings are over 60 pages long.)  Use Control F or Command F (for Macs), and keep hitting enter until you get to their salary info.  In this case his salary was found on page 45.  But you can see it also jumps to his shares of stock and other income!

Other Examples of Public Verses Private Salaries:


  • Emory University Gen. Counsel (Non profit, top wage earner)
  • Microsoft CEO (Publicly traded, top wage earner)
  • President of Atlanta Christian School (Non profit, top wage earner-could be public or private-exempt but may choose to file)
  • US Postal Clerk (Government)
  • Gynecologist: Northside Hospital (Non profit, public only if high wage earner among doctors)


  • Emory U. Janitor (Non profit but low wage earners not listed)
  • Troutman Sanders Partner (Private law firm)
  • Church Pastor (Exempt from filing Form 990)
  • President of Corporation Not Publicly Traded (Private unless voluntary disclosed)

So Where Can I Find This Information?
All this information can be found for free below!

See Salaries-Federal & State Employees, Non Profits & Officers of Public Companies (Exact $ Amounts)

Related Blogs

Public Salaries And Employment History

Did you know that nearly one sixth of all U.S. employees work for the government?  That’s right.  Twenty two million people are employed by the federal, state, county and city governments.  This includes powerful senators, eminent college professors, lawyers, judges, school teachers, postal clerks, librarians, trash collectors and city bus drivers.  The government is BIG.  And it hires people from all walks of life and every profession.

Imagine 22 million people who rent, buy homes and date, just like you.  But with one itty bitty difference.  Unlike the private sector, their salaries are totally public!  In fact, for millions of people, you can find their exact salaries along with where they’ve worked and for how long.  It’s all online!

Why Do I Care How Much They Make?  Isn’t That Just Snooping?

Of course it’s snooping.  But there are many good reasons to snoop.  If government workers are all around you (and they are), it means you’re bound to have some personal and professional contact with them.  So why wouldn’t you snoop?

If you’re going to date them, hire them, rent to them, invest with them, or even go bowling with them, you might as well know who it is you’re hanging out with.

Plus, if you ever apply for a government job, you can lookup up the exact salary of your boss and your peers.  In other words, you’ll know exactly what to negotiate for and the salary you should reasonably expect.

How To Lookup Federal Salaries and Employment Histories

Excluding the military, there are almost 3 million people who work for the federal government.  And there are millions more who once worked for them and have moved on to other things.  The good news is that you can find their the salaries,  job titles and length of service at just two websites!

The salaries of six hundred thousand postal workers can be found at the Feds Data Center where you can Search USPS Pay.  This site also shows six years of their employment history.  So even if they don’t work there now, you can see a snapshot of their work history from when they did.  Knowing their work history is important.  It can help you determine if they’re stable, dependable and trustworthy.  Pretty important stuff if they’re dating your daughter!

For the 2.1 million other federal employees, check out their salaries, job titles and seven years of their job history at Feds Data Center Search Federal Pay.

Note: Some federal employees are exempt from disclosure such as those involved in national security.  Names in these cases will display as “Name unknown” or “Name withheld by agency.”

Searching The Database For Federal Non-Postal Workers

Since both federal databases are similar, let’s take a look at the larger one for non-postal workers.

Here you can search by last name only or last name and location or by last name and agency, etc.   I recommend you search by last name only: Leave all the other fields blank.  The only reason to add more in other fields is if your name is an extremely common one.  You can also choose various years of their employment history or all years.  Selecting ALL YEARS shows the last seven.

Whenever you search be sure not to add too much information.  If you do, you may miss records due to someone else’s data entry error. (i.e. you can’t find them because your subject was listed at the wrong agency or the wrong location or with a different job title).

Checking Out Their Job History
Obviously, if they’re in years 2014 and 2015 but no earlier, it’s safe to assume they’re fairly new with the government.  You may also find the same person has changed jobs.  (The earlier years show the exact same first, middle and last name with a different position.)

If you get lots of hits, you can change SHOW ENTRIES from 10 to 100 entries.  This allows you to see them all at once rather than scroll page by page.

Now let’s test the database by searching for ABRAMS, RUTH, a name which was already here when we arrived.  Notice an exact salary is shown along with her job title, agency, and the city and state she worked in.  Click all years to see how long she worked there.

In many cases, you can learn their middle name, something which will help immensely in your Google searches.  For more on how to Google someone see the Sleuth For The Truth Video Google Like A Pro (7 Tips & Tricks).

Search By Both Name and Occupation (When in Doubt)
Government sites are known for sloppy search engines that don’t work well.  So if you can’t find the person by name, try a separate search leaving every field blank but their occupation.  Also check if they are of the class excluded from being in the database.

By way of example:  a name search for MATHUR, RASHMI finds nobody.   But don’t be so quick to presume he’s lying.  A search in the occupation box for “General Physical Scientist” shows he does in fact work for the feds.  So when in doubt search twice.  For a demonstration of how to search for federal salaries, see the Sleuth ForThe Truth video Verify Salaries & Work Histories On Federal Employees.

Salaries and Job Histories at the State, County and Local Level

4.0 woman-teacher-cartoon-welcome class

According to the US Census, there are over 19 million people on the state and local payrolls.  Most of these people have ordinary jobs and lead ordinary lives.  About 7 million are in education.  That means about 35% are teachers, professors, college administrators, and the like.  The rest include policeman, fireman, driving instructors, nurses,  prison guards,  scientists and clerks.

Like everyone else, these people apply for other jobs. They rent apartments, they buy homes, they ask for loans, and they put up online dating profiles.  And like everyone else, they make claims about themselves which you’ll want to verify.

So as we did on the federal level, I’m going to show you how to verify their job title, the years they’ve been in public service, and even find the exact salaries they were paid.

Most of the links are for state and county workers.  But in some instances you can find the salaries and job titles of city workers as well.

NOTE: Often, county teachers and even public college professors will have their salaries and work history listed in the state databases and not in the county databases.  For a good website on public payrolls, check out my website at Consumer-SOS.com (Government Salaries).

Our next stop is the State Employees & Their Salaries section, which has the one stop State Employee Salary Database.  This is a wonderful website which covers 26 states all at once.  And it allows you to search by name, state and year.  Or just by name.

The State Employee Database is far from perfect.  In some instances it’s missing people or missing their full work history.  But it’s  still a great tool for a quick salary and employment check.

Here I’ve entered the name Alice Mitchell, and we’ll search in the state of Georgia.  You can see that for 2010, the total compensation for Alice S Mitchell was 89,630 dollars.  It also shows that at this time she worked for the Georgia Department of Labor in Legal Services.

Using the back button, you can also see various other years where she held the same position with the same title.  Here, it lists  years 2010-2014 but not 2015.

Missing records are not uncommon.  But if you can’t find your person or the records are sketchy, use the back button to return to the Consumer-SOS salary section.  From there, scroll from A to Z for your state’s salary records.  Often you’ll see state sponsored links with more in-depth coverage.

Keep in mind that there’s no central state database like the feds have. The states do what they want to do.  Some states have lots of links.  Others have almost none.  And every website works differently too!

Now let’s go to  the state of Georgia and their state salary database, to see if we can find the missing 2015 data for Alice Mitchell.  Here, I can select the year I want her salary for.  Notice it gives 6 years worth of history.

Clicking on person, it now shows which employees you can find the salary of.  There are State Agencies,  anyone in the GA Public University System, Technical Colleges and Local School Teachers
in the Local Board of Education.

To find Alice Mitchell in the Department of Labor, I’ll click on State Agencies, enter her name and click on the search button.  And there she is still working at the DOL in 2015.   She’s in the same position and now making over 90 thousand dollars.

Our last stop is PI BUZZ.com.   Here you can find a tremendous wealth of information on federal, state, county and city salaries.  They also have links to numerous state employee directories.  For a demonstration of how to search for State and Local Salaries, see the Sleuth ForThe Truth video Verify Salary & Job Histories of Teachers & Other Public Employees. 

Happy hunting!