You Can Discuss Your Salary With Your Co-workers (No Matter What the Boss Says)
Policies limiting your right to discuss your salary with your co-workers have been a staple of employee handbooks for years. There’s just one problem: they’re totally illegal.
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“…Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act allows employees to discuss their terms and conditions of employment together,” writes Erica B. Meyer at The Employer Handbook. “And you don’t need to have a union either. The act applies in most every private-sector workplace. So, whether it’s employees gabbing about how their workplace [stinks], or how they are being underpaid, you can’t forbid that. This holds true even if you have a workplace policy which categorizes wages as ‘confidential.’ The National Labor Relations Board won’t have any of that.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble with the boss for it, especially if you’re not careful. Section 7 specifically protects workers’ right to collective bargaining, e.g. to discuss their salary with your co-workers — provided they aren’t exempt, a category that includes some government workers and employees of some small businesses. Even if you’re not exempt, you don’t necessarily have the right to discuss your salary with anyone, at any time, through any means.
For example, just last year, a clerk at Lacoste got fired for instagramming a picture of his paycheck and making disparaging comments about his pay in the caption.
Furthermore, there are two schools of thought on sharing your salary with co-workers. One theory is that we should all be sharing our salaries, to expose inequities in pay between men and women; the other is that sharing will cause tension and over tiny discrepancies in pay, making it more difficult for people to work together and be happy in their jobs.
Of course, the easiest solution for that is for companies to become totally transparent in their pay structure. But if your employer is among those who (illegally) forbid workers to disclose their salaries, don’t hold your breath.
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