Can You Fire People for Openly Discussing Salaries?

Apr 12 2018

There has been a longstanding taboo around open salary discussion at most companies. Many employers have had policies in place to discourage this behavior, but the fact is—it would be very difficult for an employer to successfully terminate an employee simply for sharing salary information with colleagues. Why is this so? Read on to find out:

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) exists to protect employee rights and freedoms. More specifically, it gives employees the ability and protection needed to take action to improve their employment situation by having the ability to self-organize and engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining.” Though the language is vague, employees can easily argue that sharing their salaries with other employees could give them an edge needed to negotiate a raise. And a raise could easily be seen as a collective bargaining strategy that would improve a situation of employment.

While most states have “at will” employment policies meaning both employers and employees can opt to end employment at any time without a reason, there are certain protected actions/areas that make things more complicated for employers. If you fire someone for a reason that falls under a protected category, the courts could make you re-hire the employee and compensate him for lost wages.

While not all employees are protected by the NLRA, most union and non-union workers at private companies outside of the government arena fall under the umbrella of protection.

With the NLRA and now the #MeToo movement, employees are more likely than ever to begin to openly discuss salary with other people at work. If you’re in a leadership role, take time to prepare yourself (and other managers) on how to have difficult conversations about job descriptions and compensation with your team.

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