In this article, we will explain what exceptions are permissible according to our guidelines, and how to write justifications that are acceptable.

What is an exception?

An exception is any situation where two employees are paid differently for the same role where that pay difference is justifiable. Exceptions must include a written justification that explains why it is fair that there is a difference in compensation.

When is it OK to make an exception?

It is acceptable to pay an individual more than others because:
  • The individual consistently exceeds the standards and criteria for job performance. (Merit)
  • The employee is responsible for and capable of taking on a greater quantity of work than others. (Quantity of work)
  • The employee has been with the company for a greater length of time. (Tenure)
  • The individual has either formal or practical education or certification that is relevant to the skills required for the job. (Education)
  • The employee has a greater amount of previous experience that is relevant to the job. (Experience)
  • The employee has negotiated to receive less stock or other alternative forms of compensation in lieu of cash. (Other)
It is acceptable to pay an individual less than others because of:
  • They have negotiated specifically to receive more stock or other forms of compensation than pay.


If the situation you are working to resolve involves any of the above scenarios, you can make an exception for that employee.

Writing Acceptable Justifications

Every exception must include a documented justification.

Good justifications:
  • Do not contain personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, or email addresses.
  • Are specific, meaning that they contain quantifiable details such as metrics about job performance.
  • Are relevant to the reason why the exception is being requested. For instance, an exception made on education should include some information about what degrees or certificates are relevant to the situation.
  • Are succinct and straight to the point.
Examples of good justifications:
  • Merit: “Employee consistently delivers work that is high-quality and ahead of schedule. For example, their latest project was delivered 2 weeks ahead of the target date.”
  • Quantity of Work: “Employee manages 55 accounts, which is 20 more than the team average. Employee has great customer satisfaction ratings despite this high workload.”
  • Education: “Employee has a Phd in Data Science, which is relevant given their role.”; “Employee has a Senior HR certificate.”
  • Tenure: “Employee has been with the company for four years and has received salary increases consistently during this time.”
  • Experience: “Employee joins the team having led complex projects at a large Fortune 500 company for the past seven years.”