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Legal to Prohibit Employees From Discussing Salary?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

Is it legal to prohibit employees from discussing their salaries? It depends on how far your prohibition goes.

While many employers don't like it, workers are generally allowed to talk about their salaries with coworkers at the water cooler. With the popularity of social media, discussing salaries online with other workers is also lawful.

The National Labor Relations Act provides some guidance on how to proceed when it comes to employees talking about their salaries. Here's a general overview:

What Does the NLRA Say?

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act makes it legal for employees to discuss the terms of their employment. Salary and benefits are considered terms of employment.

The NLRA allows private sector employees to organize into trade unions, take collective action like strikes, and engage in collective bargaining.

Since the Act is among the several federal laws that govern all workplace activity, it's important to become familiar with them.

What Salary Discussions Can Employers Limit?

Although the Act gives employees much leeway about what can be discussed at work, there are some ways that employers can lawfully limit salary discussions.

For example, employers:

  • Can legally bar employees from talking about their salaries to people outside the company, the website Ask A Manager advises. That's because the NLRA only protects employee discussions within the company.
  • May be able to prohibit employees from discussing salary during times when they're supposed to be working. However, as the Texas Workforce Commission explains, employers should be careful about enforcing such a rule -- especially if they only limit conversations about salary, but allow the discussion of other topics during the workday. That may appear to be an NLRA violation.

However, employers could have a tough time limiting salary discussions on social networks. An NLRB memo suggests that employers must allow their employees to discuss their wages online with other employees.

For more specific guidance about whether your policy limiting employee salary discussions goes too far, you may want to contact an experienced employment lawyer in your area.

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