The discussion of wages is a controversial topic. Many employers actively discourage or prohibit it.
Rules against discussing pay are fairly common, with some companies putting them in writing. Therefore, it comes as a surprise to many workers in Washington state that such policies violate both state and federal law.
According to the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to confer with one another about wages. Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunities Act offers similar protections.
Under state law, your employer may not prohibit the discussion of wages or retaliate against you for talking about your wages with other employees. You also have the right to discuss another employee’s wages with your employer. You can legally ask why another employee gets paid more than you do.
If your job grants you access to payroll information, the law does not allow you to share that information with others. The law also does not require you to disclose your compensation if you do not want to.
Regardless of the law, many employers still attempt to retaliate against employees who talk about pay. Signs of retaliation may include:
- Reduction in hours
- Transfer to less desirable positions or shifts
- Hostility from management
- Unjustified negative performance reviews
Your employer can still discipline you for legitimate reasons related to the discussion of wages. If, for example, you talk about your pay with coworkers via social media while on the clock, your employer can discipline you for violating a workplace internet use policy. If this occurs, you may have no legal recourse.
Despite what some employers claim, talking about your wages is a legal right protected by both state and federal laws.