Most people believe that talking about their wages at work will get them fired. Everyone from cashiers at retail establishments to even high-level executives at large companies can think that talking about what they make will be the end of their employment.
After all, employers may post signage in breakrooms or make verbal requests for employees to stop talking about what they make. Their motivation is often to keep employees in ignorant bliss about what everyone is making so that they don’t have to pay more than they want to in wages.
So, do these or any other attempts to quell discussion about wages have any teeth? As it turns out, not really.
Although it’s very common for people to think that talking about their salaries or hourly rates with their coworkers can get them fired, no employer is legally permitted to terminate employees for this reason. Put more succinctly, your employer can’t fire you for talking about your wages or anyone else’s with your coworkers.
So, what exactly is preventing employers from retaliation? Well, that would be the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This 1935 law makes it illegal for employers to fire any employee because they were talking about wages at work.
Keep in mind, however, that retaliation isn’t just limited to employment termination. Your employer can’t take any adverse action against you because you were discussing wages at work. That means that if you were receiving benefits before, these can’t be stripped as a punishment. If you were already negotiating a pay raise, your employer can’t refuse to give you one because you discussed wages.
Although employers rely on the taboo to keep their labor costs down, remember that it should be perfectly OK to talk about what you and your coworkers make while you’re at work!