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Beware Bans on Pay Discussions Among Employees

Does your handbook have a policy that prohibits employees from discussing how much you pay them? If so, get rid of it.

April 25, 2013

Pop quiz. What's wrong with the following paragraph, which appeared in the April 17, 2013, Wall Street Journal article entitled, Workers Share Their Salary Secrets?

At Brian Bader's orientation for a tech-support job with Apple three years ago, he says, human-resources managers ran down the list of guidelines workers were expected to follow. Don't use explicit language on calls with customers. Treat other employees with respect. And, he says, they told the assembled recruits, don't discuss your pay with co-workers.

If you answered, "An employer can't legally prohibit employees from discussing how much they make," give yourself a prize.

As the 6th Circuit explained in NLRB v. Main Street Terrace Care Center:

A rule prohibiting employees from communicating with one another regarding wages, a key objective of organizational activity, undoubtedly tends to interfere with the employees' right to engage in protected concerted activity…. [T]he fact that the rule was promulgated orally rather than written in an employee handbook, for example, makes no difference….

Does your handbook have a policy that prohibits employees from discussing how much you pay them? If so, get rid of it.

Do your managers and supervisor know that they cannot terminate or discipline employees for discussing how much they make? If not, train them on these rules.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.