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Can employees discuss their wages with other employees?

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2024 | Employment Issues

In California, the topic of employees discussing their wages in the workplace is governed by specific legal protections. Both employers and employees need to understand the legal framework surrounding this issue. 

California law supports wage transparency and prohibits employers from taking adverse action against employees who discuss their compensation. This protection stems from the belief that wage transparency can be crucial in identifying and addressing pay disparities. 

Legal protections for wage discussions

Under California law, employees have the right to discuss their wages. This right is protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and specific California statutes. 

The NLRA, a federal law, prohibits employers from interfering with employees’ rights to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Similarly, California labor laws reinforce these protections, making it illegal for employers to prohibit or discourage employees from discussing their wages.

Impact on employer policies

Employers in California are required to comply with these legal provisions. Workplace policies or agreements that forbid wage discussions aren’t enforceable. 

Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who engage in wage discussions. This includes any form of punishment, demotion or adverse employment action taken because an employee has chosen to discuss compensation with coworkers.

Encouraging open discussions about wages is seen as a critical factor in promoting equal pay for equal work. It lets employees be better informed about their compensation relative to their peers. 

This transparency is essential in efforts to address and rectify wage disparities based on gender, race or other discriminatory factors. Workers who face disciplinary measures for speaking about wages have legal rights. They should work with someone who understands these rights and how to uphold them.