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Can your employer prohibit talking about pay? 

One day while you’re at work, you have a conversation with some of your coworkers in the break room. The three of you start discussing the compensation that you receive, whether this is an hourly wage or a salary. Maybe you talk about your pay rates or other benefits that are being provided.

The next day, your boss calls you all into the office and tells you that this can never happen again. Your boss claims that you are prohibited from discussing your pay with your coworkers and that anyone who does it will be fired. Is it legal for your employer to make this rule?

You have a right to discuss pay

No, your employer cannot make this type of rule. It’s illegal for them to prohibit you from talking about pay with your coworkers. You have a right to do this as an employee, and that cannot be taken away from you. 

Of course, the reason that many people don’t discuss pay is because they’re worried about retaliation. Maybe you’re concerned about getting fired or having your pay rates cut. But if your boss retaliates against you for talking about pay, that is also illegal.

The law is set up this way to help encourage fair pay rates among all employees. For instance, it would be illegal for an employer to pay African-American workers less money than Caucasian workers strictly because of their racial background. Allowing workers to talk about what they’re being paid helps to expose these types of issues.

That said, your boss may not be aware of how the law actually works and may think that they have the power to make these rules. If you find yourself in a legal dispute, carefully consider all of the options at your disposal.