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Are 'Gag Orders' on Salary Talk Legal?

Are 'Gag Orders' on Salary Talk Legal?

What all employees need to know about their rights

You're asked to sign a bunch of papers when you start a new job. One of them notes that you're not allowed to discuss your compensation with anyone. So … can you be fired if you do?

You suspect that you might be getting paid less than the other people on your team. Is it OK to casually try to get other people to talk about how much money they make?

With the exception of employers that have a completely transparent pay structure, few companies are very supportive of workers talking about salaries. The reason is simple: management wants to avoid having to deal with complaints about pay discrepancies.

But even though employers would rather head off these kinds of conversations, the question is whether or not companies can lawfully prevent workers from talking about their salaries.

Believe it or not, the answer to that question is generally no.

Let's talk about how salary discussions are handled under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

What the law says

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.

Many people assume that the NLRA only protects union workers.

However, that’s not the case. The NLRA also offers some protection to non-union employees who work in the private sector.

Specifically, the NLRA protects the rights of non-union workers to engage in certain “protected activities.” That generally includes discussing the terms and conditions of employment, unless there is a legitimate business reason for prohibiting those conversations.

There are some exceptions to NLRA coverage, however. The NLRA does not apply to:

  • Agricultural laborers
  • Airline employees
  • Federal, state, or government workers
  • Independent contractors

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.

Keep in mind, even if you've signed a document stating that you're not allowed to talk about your salary, that doesn't mean the document is lawful.

Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.

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