Have you ever had an employer tell you that you’re not supposed to discuss your wages with other employees? They may act as if you earn more and so the other employees would be jealous, for instance, or they may just make a blanket statement to the effect of “that’s not something we do here.” No matter what, it’s clear to you that you’re not supposed to tell anyone how much you earn or ask them how much they earn.
But is this actually legal? Can your employer prohibit you from talking about wages?
They cannot stop you under current laws
This used to be a common practice, but it is now prohibited. This was done via the Equal Pay Act, and it has been this way since 2015. If your employer has outdated policies telling you that you can’t discuss your pay, these are in violation of the act. Likewise, if they fire you for asking about pay or talking to your coworkers, they may have violated your rights. You’ve done nothing wrong.
Why do employers do this?
The biggest issue here is that some employers did not want female employees to know that male employees were making more money for the same jobs. While there’s something to be said for qualifiers like experience or education, which could increase pay, it was deemed unfair to have these differences based on gender.
The Equal Pay Act was attempting to eliminate this problem and ensure that men and women who were doing the same work, with all of the same qualifiers, were also being paid the same. As such, they did away with the legality of prohibiting wage conversations to make it harder for employers to hide these differences — or to fire workers who were trying to make sure everything was being done fairly.
What are your legal options?
Have you been prohibited from discussing pay or fired for asking about it? Or have you discovered that you make less than other coworkers who should not earn more than you? If you feel that your rights have been violated, it is very important to consider all of your legal options.