Beware of Policies That Ban Employees from Discussing Pay

A common component of a company handbook is a policy prohibiting employees from discussing wages and benefits with coworkers. Such policies often warn employees that violators will be disciplined up to and including termination. Employers should be cautious about including this kind of language in their personnel materials, because such limitations may run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Section 7 of the NLRA gives employees the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” That right applies to both union and nonunion employees. Section 8 of the NLRA makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to limit its employees’ Section 7 rights.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) takes the stance that these sections of the NLRA prevent employers from banning employee discussions about pay and benefits. Even if such a policy is never enforced, simply having a policy establishing an outright ban on wage-related discussions on the books may well constitute an unfair labor practice under the NLRA.

On the other hand, a more finely-tuned policy addressing pay discussions may well pass muster under the NLRA. Employers can set guidelines to limit wage-related discussions while employees are supposed to be engaged in work, as long as the limitations also apply to other kinds of discussions unrelated to work.

For more information and advice, please contact the attorneys at Tucker Law Group.

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