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HR Insights: Restricting Wage Discussions

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Can my employer fire me for discussing wages or pay? Is it legal for my employer to restrict wage discussions?

HR Insights: Expert answers to common HR Questions

Scenario:

Q : I’m concerned I’m not being paid fairly for my work. I pull my weight and then some, but I’ve started to get the feeling that I make less than everyone else in my position. I tried to talk about it with one of my coworkers, but my manager overheard and took me aside. They politely reminded me about the company’s policy that we couldn’t talk about our pay with other employees. If I’m not allowed to talk to my coworkers, then how am I supposed to know if I’m being paid fairly?


Can my employer fire me for talking about how much I get paid? Is it legal if my employer is restricting wage discussions?


Answer:

Trick question! Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees do have the right to discuss their wages with other employees. An employer cannot have a policy that specifically restricts this right. These rights are regardless of if you are represented by a union; all employees that are covered under this act have the right to discuss wages.


The NLRA also empowers employees to discuss with other employees about public issues that clearly affect their wages, such as minimum wage laws. Employees also have the right to not discuss their wages if they choose.


Employers cannot punish, threaten, or otherwise retaliate against employees who discuss wages or exercise their rights under the NRLA. They cannot create any sort of hiring agreement, policy, or rule that would prevent discussion of wages, or require the employer’s permission to have such discussions. If an employer does engage in one of these behaviors, employees have the right to file charges against the employer with the National Labor Relations Board.


Keep in mind that most private employers are covered under the NLRA. Federal, State, and local governments are not covered by this act. In addition, employers who only employ agricultural workers, or employers subject to the Railway Labor Act, are also not covered by this act.


The National Labor Relations Board has a webpage with more information about these rights. You can find that here.


Employers may want to go over their handbook and other written policies/agreements to ensure nothing restricts an employee’s rights under the NLRA. If you are a Vida HR client and are concerned about this information, you can contact your HR Business Partner for more information.

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