Compensation should be based on the market value of the work being done--value to the enterprise provided. Quantifiable factors such as education, experience, amount and type of supervision required and abilities required should also play a role.
Even trying to base what people are paid on such factors opens the door to claims of discrimination in pay practices in the U.S.
It is very unfortunate if you were promised a salary increase for passing boards or obtaining specific certifications and then were not given the raise.
If the practice of giving a standard kind of increase to salary is a standard past practice for passing specific tests, it is possible that you have a legitimate claim of discrimination. But without knowing more, I cannot fully advise you on that.
To answer your actual question, it may be legal for the HR director to ask such a question. But it does show extremely poor judgment, as the question is totally irrelevant regarding how much you should be paid for the work that you do and the value that you provide to the hospital.
Asking questions like this also opens the door to a claim of discriminatory pay practices, as I mentioned above.
Question added to topic Human Resources • November 11, 2009
Can an HR director ask me if I "need" the money when discussing a raise?
I work in a hospital and they promised me a raise after taking my boards. They have since gone back on their word. In discussing why they should give me the original raise, the HR director asked me if I was "financially dependent" on the raise.
Penny is a seasoned human resources executive and consultant with over 25 years of diverse business experience in advising enterprise leaders on employment-related matters.