No, most companies can’t stop people from sharing their pay with other employees

Federal law allows most people who work for private companies to talk about how much they make with their coworkers.

For many people, conversations about pay in the workplace are often considered taboo. 

Nearly half of all full-time workers surveyed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017-2018 reported that their employers discouraged or banned discussions of wages and salaries. 

But are these practices legal? That’s what VERIFY reader John wanted to know. He emailed us to ask, “Can a company force you to not disclose wages to fellow employees?”


Can most companies stop people from sharing their pay with other employees?



This is false.

No, most companies can’t stop people from sharing their pay with other employees. 

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Federal law allows most people who work for private companies to share their salary or wages with other employees. 

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies to most private sector employers, including manufacturers, retailers, private universities and health care facilities, according to the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Employees covered by the NLRA can discuss their pay outside of work, on breaks from work, or even at work if “non-work conversations” are allowed.

These conversations can also take place through written messages, including social media – though some employers may have policies that say you can’t use their equipment for electronic communications, the NLRB says.

But any policies that specifically prohibit discussions about pay are illegal under the NLRA. 

“Even informal, unwritten policies or practices, such as when supervisors urge employees not to discuss pay, are illegal under the NLRA,” California lawyer Melora Garrison wrote for Nolo

Employers also cannot “punish or retaliate against you in any way” for talking to another employee about your pay, the NLRB says. 

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Though most private-sector employees can discuss compensation with their coworkers, there are some workers who can’t do so under federal law. 

The rules under the NLRA don’t apply to people in these job sectors because of other laws or regulations:

  • Federal, state and local government employees
  • Employees of companies that are subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as interstate railroad and airline workers
  • Agricultural laborers
  • Employees of religious organizations “who are involved in [carrying out] the religious purpose of the organization, such as teachers in church-operated schools”
  • Independent contractors

These employees are “subject to the policies of their employers and may not be able to discuss their pay,” according to Garrison. 

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t any protections for these workers.

Some of them may be part of a union or, in the case of government workers, their salary data is already public.

State and local laws may also allow some workers who aren’t protected by the NLRA to discuss their pay without consequence. 

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