Employers are not legally allowed to stop their employees from discussing payroll, even amongst one another. Additionally, they are also prohibited from taking any adverse action against employees for such discussions, as doing so infringes upon the rights that employees have been given under the NLRA, or National Labor Relations Act, Section 7.
What Does The NLRA Say?
The NLRA allows employees the option to engage and organize for mutual assistance, regarding a variety of issues, including safety, employee benefits and wages. Its protections are widespread, and allow employees to discuss their wages in break rooms, online chat or by email. Such discussions are also allowed on social media sites. Employees can complain about their work conditions, and if discontent is growing it serves as an opportunity for employers to address the problem in a constructive way.
Other rights granted by NLRA include the ability to send out petitions requesting better hours, joining other employees in refusing to work in conditions that are unsafe, and speaking to the media or government officials about workplace issues. Aside from this, the NLRA is associated with the NLRB, or National Labor Relations Board, which has the power to rule on NLRA cases. It has made clear that employees can discuss their wages openly, and any attempt by employers to prohibit it is the equivalent of not paying for overtime and minimum wage.
How Employers Should Respond
The best way for employers to respond to NLRA mandates is by adhering to them. Under no circumstances should they attempt to block employees from speaking openly on salaries, or other issues which are of concern to them. In fact, employers should see such dialogue as an opportunity to correct problems that could be hurting employee morale and threatening productivity.
Employers must avoid directly or indirectly threatening employees regarding their decision to openly discuss workplace pay or other issues. This could include taking away their benefits, terminating them or denying their access to the workplace. Employees have the right to unionize, and employers must avoid offering them benefits in exchange for union rejection.
When employees unionize, it is often the result of unfair or unethical business practices on the part of their employer. By paying fair wages and ensuring workplace conditions are safe, this will ensure employees have little incentive to unionize and it will prevent the employer from being in violation of various state and federal laws, which could result in hefty fines, a loss of goodwill and other penalties.
Salary is arguably one of the most sensitive subjects an employee can discuss. Due to the advent of the internet and social media, any negativity feedback regarding pay or workplace conditions can circulate quickly, creating a fire that can be difficult for employers to put out. The best solution is to prevent the issue from arising in the first place, by making sure employees are paid on time and in the correct amounts.