Can I Be Fired for Discussing Compensation in the Workplace?

It’s a common conception that as an employee, you are not allowed to discuss salary or compensation with other employees in the workplace. Many are told that they could be fired for it, and many are even told that it’s illegal – at best, it’s frowned upon. Discussing compensation is not illegal, but may be a violation of a workplace policy – a policy that only in rare cases has any validity.

Employees engage in these discussions out of curiosity, but mostly to ensure that they are being fairly compensated – a concern that both the National Labor Relations Board and an Executive Order from April 2014 of the Obama administration support. Workers have a right to consult in securing a fair workplace, and retaliation for efforts to do so have been overruled for several decades.

Protective Legislation

The vast majority of workers in the private sector are protected by the following:

  • National Labor Relations Board: Companies covered by the NLRB are prohibited from limiting their employees’ concerted activities aimed at “collective bargaining or mutual aid protection.”
  • April 2014 Executive Order: President Obama’s Order states guards against employee retaliation because he or she has “inquired about, discussed, or disclosed the compensation of the employee, or applicant or another employee or applicant.”

Exceptions to the Rule

There are, however, at least two employment scenarios that restrict the discussion of pay. Those whose job is directly involved with payroll information must not disclose it other employees unless they have been instructed to by an investigative agency or by their employer. Additionally, those that are not covered by the NLRA or Executive Order might include city governments and religious schools. For these employees, a policy against pay discussion may be set in placed and adherence to it required.

Case Findings in Favor of the Employee

Employers actually have a long history of being overruled in instances of retaliation against employees for discussing compensation, but two of the most recent include the following:

  • 2011: Supervisors of a cheese processing plant announce to the company merit-based pay increases but order employees not to discuss them with each other. One is later fired for doing so, and the NLRB rules that the policy and retaliation were in direct violation.
  • 2003: Two retail carpenters are not rehired for a new project after a period of being laid off, and their employer claims this is directly because of their workplace discussion of pay. The NLRM rules that this action by the employer is clear and unlawful retaliation.

If you have been unfairly retaliated against because of your discussion or disclosing of compensation with other employees, the chances are that you are protected by the NLRB and Obama’s Executive Order.

Contact Alan Burton Newman, PLC to seek the compensation you are deserved for your unlawful mistreatment.