While discussing pay may foment worker dissatisfaction and be considered rude in polite circles, an employer may not prohibit the discussions from taking place or punish an employee for discussing pay or benefits with their coworkers. These discussions are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Among other things, the NLRA protects the right of workers to engage in “concerted activity,” which includes discussing wages, benefits, and other conditions of employment. This right to engage in “concerted activity” exists regardless of whether the workplace is unionized or the employee’s membership in a union. As a result, employers who prohibit, punish, or discharge employees for discussing their pay with coworkers are subject to discipline from the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).
Because the penalties levied by the NLRB can be onerous, employers should be especially cautious when implementing policies, whether verbal or written in a handbook, which prohibit or dissuade employees from discussing their pay or benefits with coworkers. While most of these policies are ostensibly well meaning and meant to promote or foster synergy, collegiality, and comradery, the intent of the policy is of little value in defending against an unfair labor practice.
If you believe that your employment policies may not be compliant with the labor and employment laws, consider speaking to one of the qualified labor and employment attorneys at the Finney Law Firm: Stephen E. Imm (513-943-5678) or Matt Okiishi (513-943-6659).