Salary confidentiality in American business

Originally posted April 15, 2014; updated May 24, 2015




The following story appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on April 9. I think it was from the Associated Press.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed two executive measures intended to help close long-standing pay disparities between men and women as Democrats seek to capitalize on their gender-gap advantage at the ballot box in a midterm election year. Obama, standing in front of a platform of women in a picture-ready ceremony in the East Room of the White House, said his actions would make it easier for women to learn whether they had been cheated by employers. Neither of the actions Obama took would affect the broad U.S. workforce. The executive order he signed bars federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries and an executive memorandum he issued instructs the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from such contractors.

Someone should tell the president that retaliation against employees in private industry who discuss their salaries has been prohibited by federal law since 1935. That law is the National Labor Relations Act. I know because I got fired twice back in the 1980s for revealing my salary to co-workers. Each time, I filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Each time, the board ruled in my favor.


The following is from a 1980 newsletter called White Collar Management, published by Business Research Publications, Inc. of Plainview, NY. The page it appears on is here.

Many employers erroneously assume that the National Labor Relations Act solely involves unionization activities. Actually, any "concerted activity" by employees to improve their conditions is protected. That goes for salaries, vacations, hours of work, sanitation, parking privileges and the like.

In 1986, I wrote this about my experience:


Disciplining an employee for disclosing his salary is against Michigan law, too. This is from the Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act:

408.483a Prohibited conduct.

    Sec. 13a. (1) An employer shall not do any of the following:

    (a) Require as a condition of employment nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages.

    (b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document which purports to deny an employee the right to disclose his or her wages.

    (c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate against for job advancement an employee who discloses his or her wages.