Can we forbid employees from sharing how much of a bonus they received?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. My company asks employees who receive raises or discretionary bonuses not to discuss them with other employees. An employee recently took issue with this request and told me the company’s practice is illegal. Is that true?

A.
Yes. Restricting employees from talking to each other about wages or other compensation matters is an unfair labor practice prohibited by federal labor law. Such a rule violates the law even if the company never actually enforces the rule through discipline.

This prohibition applies to your company whether or not you have unions in the workplace.

It’s against the law to prohibit such conversations because the labor law protects not only workers’ rights to unionize but also their rights to engage in other “concerted activities” for their “mutual aid or protection.” The National Labor Relations Board has reasoned that, in order to give effect to these rights, employees must be permitted to engage in activities like talking among themselves about compensation and meeting on nonworking time, if they so choose.

By the way, it probably won’t make much difference that your company only “asks” that employees not talk with each other about such things. The labor board generally believes that employees do not have adequate power to fully resist such employer “requests,” and therefore would probably treat your company’s practice as if it was a more direct policy and not just a simple request.

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