Don’t Talk, Don’t Tell

Have you ever been told you are not allowed to discuss your salary with co-workers? Many companies have polices that strictly prohibit it. Often a statement such as this appears in the employee handbook “Confidentiality of Salary and Benefit Information: Employees are prohibited from discussing their salary or wage levels and company benefits with other employees. Such information is confidential and may not be discussed in the workplace. Any employee violating this policy will be considered to have committed a breach of confidentiality and will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and possibly including termination of employment.”

Colorado just became the fourth state to forbid employers to require that employees refrain from discussions about wages, and does not allow employers to require an employee to sign a waiver of their right to have such discussions. Illinois is among the three other states that have laws in place that protect a worker’s right to discuss their wages, along with California and Michigan.

The Illinois Equal Pay Act states that it is unlawful for any employer to discharge or discriminate against any employee for talking about, comparing, or discussing their wages or the wages of any other employee (820 ILCS 112/10(b). Illinois also has a web page titled The Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal which allows anyone to view state employees’ and individual consultants’ gross pay.

The National Labor Relations Act Section 7 (29 U.S.C. § 157), also states that all employees have the right to “engage in concerted activities”, including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with one another other.

Employers do have the right to disallow employees from having those discussions during the times they are supposed to be working but an employer cannot prohibit pay discussions, while allowing other types of conversations unrelated to work. Rather than being concerned that employees will uncover unfair or uneven salaries, it is far better that employers actively promote their practice’s regarding promotion, pay increases, and benefits.