You get hired at a new company, and your boss pulls you into the office on the first day. They give you some general tips for how to do your job, as well as providing instructions or insights. As you go to leave the office, one of the last things they do is ask you not to talk about how much you’re getting paid.
Does this rub you the wrong way? You may start to wonder exactly why your boss wants to hide your wages. Are you making more than other employees, so your boss is trying to suppress their wages by keeping them from finding out? Or is it you who is being significantly underpaid, and your boss is simply hoping that you’ll never find out if you don’t talk about it with the other employees? Can they prohibit you from having these discussions?
A protected right in California
Many employers believe that they can set up company policies prohibiting employees from talking about wages. They cannot. These conversations are a protected right under California law. Employees are always allowed to discuss their wages and compensation, and it is actually illegal for an employer to try to force them not to do so.
In some cases, an employer may directly make a company policy that is in violation of the law. In other cases, they may simply “ask” employees not to talk about their wages, while implying the threat that anyone who does so risks being demoted or terminated. Either way, it is a violation of California law.
In the example above, if your new boss’s request rubbed you the wrong way, there’s a reason for it. Be sure you understand all the legal steps that you can take.