Salary might be one of the most popular topics of workplace speculation. While an employer may suggest employees not talk about salary or have a policy to prohibit them from doing so, the law actually protects an employee’s right to discuss their wages. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) states that employers cannot ban employees from discussing salary and working conditions. The NLRA was initially drafted regarding labor unions and organizing. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) argued that not allowing employees to organize and discuss workplace issues would give employers an unfair edge in bargaining.
Employees can discuss salary among themselves, and an employer cannot discharge or discriminate against employees who do. It is important to note that the law does not guarantee an employee access to salary information. Only that the employee can reveal their salary. For example, if an employee approaches Human Resources (HR) and demands to know the salary of a colleague, HR does not have to release this information. The employee can only find out the salary from their colleague directly.
An employer can ask an employee to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA generally prohibits discussion or sharing of the company’s trade secrets, marketing strategies, sales, and other information. However, an NDA cannot prohibit the discussion of salary under the NLRA.
Why Discuss Salary at Work?
While most HR people would not advocate for employees discussing salary, there may be occasions where it is helpful. For example, suppose an employee feels they are significantly underpaid compared to a co-worker doing identical work. In that case, it may be beneficial to discuss salary among a few co-workers in the same job. This scenario could include a female worker who wants to ensure they are paid the same as a male in the same position.
A salary discussion might also be beneficial if many people in the company or a certain department believe they are being underpaid versus market rates. There are many resources employees can use to check average salaries in their geographic location or industry. If a group of employees finds they are being underpaid, they could have the leverage to demand a pay raise across the board.
Why Not Discuss Salary at Work?
There also are many good reasons not to discuss salary at work. Most of these have to do with employee morale. It is easy for someone to feel resentful or jealous of a colleague’s salary. Workplace gossip about a salary could also lead to reduced productivity and diminished teamwork.
Discussing salary could also make HR or a person’s manager feel differently toward the employee. Although management cannot fire someone for discussing salary, they can keep it in the back of their minds at performance reviews or promotion time. Additionally, a worker who makes more than anyone in the department may find themselves the target of resentment or other harmful behavior.
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If there are valid reasons to discuss salary, do so carefully. Talk with only colleagues and co-workers that are trustworthy. Also, make everyone involved agree to confidentiality. Never discuss salary during working hours. Wait until a break or after working hours because the discussion could be risky, and it is important not to waste company time.
What Should I Do if I am Underpaid?
If, after research and discussion, an employee finds they are underpaid, they have certain rights. Their first right is to approach their manager or the HR department, armed with facts and data that show the underpayment. If the company will not budge on salary, the employee can always speak to a lawyer for legal counsel.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protect Workers’ Rights
Employees have rights under the law, including fair payment. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We help employees get fair and just treatment in the workplace. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.