It’s well-known that pay inequality is pervasive in the workplace. But how do you know if you are receiving equal pay for doing the same job as your co-corkers?
Can I ask my co-workers how much they make?
Have you ever suspected that your employer isn’t paying you as much as everyone else? Have your suspicions about being underpaid grown stronger over time?
While you may want to ask your co-workers how much they get paid, you might think that it’s inappropriate to initiate such a conversation. And your employer may even have rules that forbid employees from discussing their wages. For instance, some employee handbooks and employment contracts say that you must keep your compensation confidential.
You may wonder if such rules are enforceable. To put it another way, can your boss write you up or fire you if they find out you have talked about your pay? The answer is no.
Employers can’t penalize workers for protected activities
Your employer may want to deter you from talking about what they pay you, but they cannot enforce that rule. National Labor Relations Act deems it illegal retaliation for a company to punish workers for engaging in certain protected activities, including organizing or unionizing.
Discussing your wages is a crucial early step toward organizing as a group or holding a business accountable for illegal practices. After all, if you don’t know what your co-workers make, you have no way of knowing if your pay is unfairly low compared to theirs.
Your employer cannot punish you for discussing your wages with co-workers even if they have an internal policy prohibiting such conversations.
Companies want to hide discriminatory practices
You should talk about wages with your co-workers. When an employer pays workers with the same responsibilities and training different wages, they may base the compensation on characteristics they shouldn’t consider, like someone’s gender or race.
Knowing the wages of other people at the company is important if you want to prove that the company pays certain groups less than others. If you spot a trend regarding how much the company pays and to whom, those negatively affected by inappropriate payroll practices could potentially bring a wage claim against the company.
Not only could taking action to connect you with the wages you should have earned but didn’t, but it can also prevent the company from continuing to discriminate and how it compensates workers in the future. Knowing your rights and asking the right questions can lay the groundwork for a successful wage claim.