We all know it’s taboo and even frowned upon by most employers to discuss your salary and pay with your coworkers.
But, is it illegal to discuss salary with coworkers, and can your employer stop you?
In a word, no.
It’s neither illegal nor can your employer punish you (legally) for discussing your salary with your coworkers.
Why Your Employer Doesn’t Want You to Discuss Your Salary With Coworkers
There are a few reasons your employer may not want you to discuss your salary with coworkers.
The first reason is that it can create a hostile or competitive work environment.
If some employees find out that others are being paid more, it can lead to jealousy and resentment.
This can also cause people to band together and ask for raises, which can be costly for the employer.
The second reason is that it can lead to employees negotiating their salaries.
If employees know what others are being paid, they may try to negotiate for a higher salary themselves.
This can end up costing the employer more money in the long run.
Another reason is that it can harm morale and productivity.
When someone finds out they are being paid less to do the same job as one of their coworkers, they often feel demotivated to try as hard.
Is It Illegal to Discuss Salary With Coworkers?
While your employer may not want you discussing your salary with coworkers, it is not illegal.
You have the right to discuss your pay with whomever you want and your employer can’t do anything about it.
Under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) act, employees have the right to communicate with other employees at their workplace about their wages.
It’s unlawful for an employer to punish or retaliate against any member of staff who does talk about their salary in any way.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you do choose to discuss your salary with coworkers.
First, make sure you’re discussing it with people you trust.
You don’t want to accidentally share sensitive information with someone who may not be as discreet as you are.
Second, remember that your employer may still find out if enough people start talking about it.
If your employer gets wind of the discussion, they may decide to take action against you and/or your coworkers.
Sure, they can’t legally fire you or take any direct action, but it doesn’t stop them from treating you unfairly if it has caused them some issues.
Should You Discuss Your Salary With Your Coworkers?
Now that you know it’s not illegal to discuss your salary with your coworkers, you may be wondering if you should do it.
There are pros and cons to consider before making a decision.
On the one hand, discussing your salary can help you figure out if you’re being paid fairly.
If you find out that you’re being paid less than your coworkers, you can use this information to try and negotiate a raise.
On the other hand, there is always the risk that discussing your salary will backfire.
If your employer catches wind of the discussion, they may put a black mark against you or your coworkers, harming your potential for a raise.
What you should really be asking yourself is; “does it matter if you’re being paid more or less than your coworkers?”
I’m sure we’d all like to know what others are paid from a personal interest standpoint.
But if you’re not going to use the information, is it worth digging for it?
Can You Be Fired for Discussing Salary in The US?
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen, heard, or spoken with people who said their boss threatened to fire them if they talk openly about their pay.
Legally, you cannot be fired for talking about your salary in the US. I say the US because I’m not 100% sure about the rest of the world!
You’re protected by National Labor Laws against being fired or having any punitive action taken against you.
This doesn’t mean that your boss will not be upset, or even angry at you though. Especially if they asked you not to discuss salary.
So, you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons of discussing salary, pay, bonuses, etc, whether you’ve been asked not to discuss it or not.
It’s not hard to see why pay is a taboo subject and how it can cause companies a lot of problems – not that it should be your problem!
It is not illegal to discuss your salary with coworkers in the US and you should not face any repercussions for doing so.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before doing so.
First of all, think about whether or not it’s worth discussing and if it will actually benefit you in any way.
Also, be aware that your boss may still find out and not be happy about it. If you do talk about salary, it’s best done outside of working hours, too.
Image credits – Photo by Carrie Allen on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.