Can I ban my employees from talking about their pay?

April 3, 2018|Kailee Wahler

Review your pay practices to ensure you’re providing an equitable salary structure.

In most organizations pay seems to be the elephant in the room. It’s that topic no one wants to talk about but everyone cares about.

I have heard time and time again from leaders, “You cannot share your salary information with anybody else. It is confidential!”

Well, these leaders need to rethink this approach.

While pay is a topic that most people don’t share or talk about freely, an employer cannot ban an employee from talking about pay. In fact, in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act, employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against an employee not only for discussing pay, but also for discussing working conditions, safety and benefits. Employees have the right to discuss these items with the hopes of improving the terms and conditions of employment.

But, I don’t have union employees. Does the National Labor Relations Act really apply to me?

The short answer is yes.

The National Labor Relations Act covers most employees in both union and nonunion settings. A few groups are excluded such as public employees and agricultural and domestic employees, but in general, I would recommend that employers do not restrict employees from speaking about these items.

Now is a good time to review and rethink your pay practices

If you have never fully reviewed your pay practices, I would highly suggest that you do. Not only do you want to make sure you are offering competitive wages, you also want to make sure you are paying people equitably.

Many times employers simply complete a market wage analysis to understand how their competitors are paying people but forget about reviewing their own workforce’s pay. Skill, effort, level or responsibility and other factors all play a part in how someone is paid. Employers can complete an internal equity analysis to ensure pay fairness, reduced exposure to discrimination, consistent standards, and appropriate team structure.

Many employers opt to use the Point Factor Method, which is a process that breaks jobs down into identifiable compensable factors by assigning weights, levels and points to specific evaluation criteria. These criteria are then used to evaluate positions throughout the organization. The Point Factor Method provides uniformity of evaluations, determines relative value of different jobs and addresses comparable worth issues.

Moving forward

If you review your pay practices now and take action if needed, pay won’t have to be the elephant in the room. If your employees understand that you are taking steps to ensure pay competitiveness and fairness, employees will appreciate the transparency and trust you. Maybe you will be the employer in the headlines for treating your employees like gold rather than the big bad employer who isn’t paying their employees fairly.

Our HR Consulting team is here to help and can guide you through this process. Call 800-236-2246 to find out how we can review and analyze your compensation practices.


Kailee Wahler, senior human resources consultant with Schenck, builds relationships with clients and advises businesses on a wide variety of human resources matters. She provides one-on-one guidance and counsel, along with the ability to analyze and offer solutions to everyday HR challenges.