Life at the top isn't too shabby.
The chief executives of some of America's biggest corporations earn an average of 204 times the pay of their median workers, according to a Glassdoor analysis of regulatory filings and self-reported salaries by employees at those companies (see chart at bottom).
The career services firm analyzed the data in anticipation of new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules that will require every public U.S. company to disclose the ratio between the pay of their CEO and median worker.
"Executive pay has long been controversial. In recent years, a number of studies have highlighted the gap between CEO pay and average salaries for workers," wrote Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain in a statement about the research. "But all of them suffer from a basic problem: CEO compensation is widely available for public companies, but information about average worker pay is not, making it hard to accurately report the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay."
That's where Glassdoor added some real-world data about regular workers, given that thousands of Americans have voluntarily and anonymously reported their own salary data to the site. The analysis has provided "a sneak preview" of what the actual reported CEO-to-worker ratios might look like once the rule goes into effect in 2017, Chamberlain said.
Across the board, CEOs make an average of $13.8 million annually, while the average median worker pay is about $77,800, Glassdoor found. That results in a ratio of 204-to-1 in favor of the CEOs.
The company with the highest gap in pay is Discovery Communications (DISCA), which has a pay ratio of 1,951-to-1 thanks to the $156 million in compensation earned last year by CEO David Zaslav. The median worker pay for Discovery workers was $80,000, based on Glassdoor reports.
The second-highest ratio belongs to Chipotle (CMG), where CEO Steve Ells made $28.9 million last year. Median workers took home $19,000, resulting in a pay ratio of 1,522-to-1.
There were some companies with extremely low CEO-to-worker ratios, including Fossil (FOSL), whose CEO reported no base annual pay last year. In a regulatory filing, Fossil noted that CEO Kosta Kartsotis "again refused all forms of compensation for fiscal 2014. Mr. Kartsotis is one of the initial investors in our company and expressed his belief that his primary compensation is met by continuing to drive stock price growth."
Top executive pay has been far outpacing the meager gains of ordinary workers during the past few decades. CEO pay jumped 937 percent from 1978 through 2013, compared with a 10.2 percent increase in the typical employee's paycheck during the same period, the Economic Policy Institute found in June.
There are some caveats about Glassdoor's findings, however. While CEO pay is reported in SEC filings accurately, workers who are self-reporting income tend to underestimate their pay as they may leave out stock options or fail to recall non-salary compensation, the employment site said. The pay reports for workers may also be skewed toward higher or lower-paid workers, depending on the distribution of people providing the data to the site.