“My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here,” he wrote in an email to staff that he also shared on Twitter on Wednesday night. “I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me,” adding, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Price did not elaborate on the allegations or immediately respond to a request for comment. Gravity Payments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A frequent critic of corporate executives and the vast pay gap between them and their workers, Price rose to fame in 2015 after announcing he would raise every employee’s salary to at least $70,000. At that time, his 120 employees were paid an average salary of $48,000 a year, according to the Times.
He also reduced his own $1 million compensation to that floor, taking a more than 90 percent pay cut, and tapped roughly three-quarters of that year’s profits to cover the higher wages, the report added. Price said he would keep his salary low until the profits were earned back.
On Twitter Price touted the success of his company’s model and the benefits afforded to employees. The minimum pay for workers is now $80,000, he said, and staff received a $10,000 baseline raise this year. Job openings typically attract more than 300 applicants, he said.
The original salary floor was set the same year Price won a legal battle against his brother, Lucas Price. A three-week court battle ensued after his older brother, Lucas Price, alleged that his rights as a minority shareholder were violated when Dan Price upped his own salary. A King County Superior Court judge disagreed, and ordered Lucas Price to pay his brother’s legal fees, totaling $1.3 million.
Price was 19 when he started Gravity Payments in 2004 out of his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University, using seed money from Lucas Price, according to the Times.
Now 38, Price’s public persona is shaped around his advocacy for average workers and criticism of big business. He authored a 2020 book entitled “Worth It: How a Million-Dollar Pay Cut and a $70,000 Minimum Wage Revealed a Better Way of Doing Business.” That same year, he wrote a perspective piece for The Washington Post, championing his company’s treatment of workers as a model that allowed staff to decide how to confront the economic shocks during the early months of the pandemic.
He also wrote that 98 percent of Gravity Payments employees volunteered to temporarily cut their pay from 5 to 100 percent to avoid layoffs. On Wednesday Price said that the company has never laid off a single employee in its 18-year history.
The company’ chief operating officer, Tammi Kroll, has stepped in as CEO, Price said in his announcement.