Can Woman Be Fired for Talking about Her Salary?
What employees need to know about their rights under the NLRA
You suspect that you may be getting paid less than people in similar positions.
You’ve brought the matter up with Human Resources only to be given
vague answers that didn’t quite satisfy your concerns.
The only way to find out for sure is to have some candid talks with your
colleagues. However, the company frowns on people talking about their
The question is, can you be terminated for talking about your salary?
Let’s take a look at what happened when one employee was fired for
discussing her salary and then discuss workers’ rights under the
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Fired over funds
Lynda Teare was a training coordinator at a surveying company. She believed
that she wasn’t being paid on par with her colleagues, so she engaged
in a few conversations to find out what other people were making.
However, management got wind of what Teare was up to. She was terminated
for allegedly “harassing” other workers by asking them about
Teare filed for unemployment. When the state unemployment office contacted
her former employer, it was told that Teare was fired because she had
openly discussed salaries, which was a “pet peeve” of the company.
Teare spoke to an attorney and filed a charge with the National Labor Relations
Board, the independent federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector
employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their
wages and working conditions.
The case went to trial. An administrative law judge ruled that Teare’s
former employer had violated the NRLA.
Under the NLRA, employers may not prohibit employees from engaging in discussions
about rates of pay, pay increases, or perceived inequities in pay. The
judge ordered the company to pay Teare $107,000 in back pay and lost benefits,
and to reinstate her to her former position.
Teare declined to be reinstated.
(For more information, see
Jones & Carter, Inc., and Lynda A. Teare.)
NLRA: Not just for union workers
People may mistakenly assume that the NLRA only applies to union employees,
but that’s not the case. It also offers certain protections to non-union
The NLRA is a federal labor law that protects private-sector employees’
rights to unionize, engage in collective bargaining, and take other collective
actions, such as striking.
In addition, it protects the rights of non-union workers to engage in certain
“protected activities,” including discussing the terms and
conditions of employment, unless there is a legitimate business reason
for prohibiting those conversations.
It’s important to note that employees in the railroad and airline
industries are not covered by the NLRA, but many other employees are.
What it means to you
If you believe that your rights under the NLRA have been compromised, it’s
a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.