Can My Boss Really Fire Me for Talking About His Compensation?

I recently read an article about a manager who posted this notice in an employee break room:

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, CONVERSING ABOUT WAGE (BOTH ON DUTY AND OFF DUTY) IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

This is considered proprietary information and as such, it is protected legally. If you are overheard speaking (OR LISTENING TO!!) a conversation in which wages are discussed, you will receive disciplinary action up to and including termination.

As a reminder, Kentucky is an at-will state, meaning that your employment can be terminated for any reason without legal percussion. Or NO REASON.

The fact that Kentucky and Louisiana are both at-will states will not help this employer one bit. This type of policy is specifically forbidden by the National Labor Relations Act, which applies to both union and merit shop employers, and it will also be forbidden in Louisiana if a Bill currently pending in the Senate becomes law. 

The National Labor Relations Board has this to say about policies limiting employees’ rights to talk about their compensation.  

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act), employees have the right to communicate with other employees at their workplace about their wages. Wages are a vital term and condition of employment, and discussions of wages are often preliminary to organizing or other actions for mutual aid or protection.

If you are an employee covered by the Act, you may discuss wages in face-to-face conversations and written messages. When using electronic communications, like social media, keep in mind that your employer may have policies against using their equipment. However, policies that specifically prohibit the discussion of wages are unlawful.

You may have discussions about wages when not at work, when you are on break, and even during work if employees are permitted to have other non-work conversations.

If it becomes law, Louisiana Senate Bill 410 will also make it unlawful for an employer to act against an employee for “inquiring about, disclosing, comparing, or otherwise discussing the employee’s wages or the wages of any other employee, or aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise the same actions.” Although policies forbidding employees from discussing their pay were common in the “good old days”,  I would urge caution in the enforcement of any policy that limits an employee’s ability to discuss their pay today. 

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