Employees, two men and a women, talking and drinking coffee while leaning on a railing

Discouraging Employees from Discussing Pay may Prove Risky

by Carole Cox, PHR, on December 07, 2018
As a business owner you may find it difficult to stay on top of all the new regulations and laws that affect your business.  In recent years, there has been a change in the stance of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding employees’ right to discuss their pay with their coworkers.  Many companies had policies, written or unwritten, in place that specifically indicated such discussions would not be tolerated in the workplace.  Today, those policies can no longer be enforced.
You may think if you are a non-union workplace that you don’t have to be worried about the NLRB.  However, the National Labor Relations Act specifically protects employees’ rights to discuss conditions of employment, such as safety and pay, even in a non-union workplace.  The NLRB calls these discussions “protected concerted activity” and defines them as when employees “take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms or conditions of employment.”  The following states have even more explicit protections for workers’ rights to discuss their pay: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire.
It is imperative that managers know that adverse action may not be taken against employees who discuss their pay.  Also, it is important to establish there are no “unwritten” rules that make employees feel they shouldn’t be able to have open discussions.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, unwritten policies are rampant across the country.  In the private sector alone, 61% of American employees in all sectors are either explicitly prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their coworkers.
Handling delicate issues like pay can be difficult for most business owners. One of the best ways to prevent disagreements is to maintain an open door policy.  When employees feel they can discuss issues with you, communication about pay is much easier to navigate.  Another best practice is to review your pay structures and process for determining raises to ensure they are fair.  If you have more questions on this issue or about specific state regulations, please contact your LandrumHR Human Resource manager.
Carole Cox, PHR

Carole Cox serves as an HR Manager at LandrumHR. She has 25 years of experience in corporate, service, & healthcare environments, including a Fortune 500 company. Carole specifically enjoys a focus in employee relations, talent acquisition, employment law compliance, supervisor and employee education, career development and consulting. She earned her Bachelor’s in Education from the U. of South Alabama, and is the past president of the Greater Pensacola Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

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