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Revise confidentiality policy to omit any hint it covers wages

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

It’s considered impolite in many circles to discuss money, but don’t try to stop employees from talking about their pay.

Setting a policy that prohibits employees from sharing information about hourly rates, salaries, bonuses or the terms of their employment could violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—even if your employees do not belong to a union.

Your employee manual might admonish workers to keep certain information confidential, and that’s OK—as long as it’s not too broad. The NLRA once prohibited confidentiality policies that specifically referred to discussions of wages and employment terms. In 2005, the law was broadened to ban policies that employees could construe to cover those topics.

One organization’s confidentiality policy, which broadly covered “any information concerning the company, its business plans, its partners, new business efforts, customers, accounting and financial matters,” was found to violate a rule that prohibits employers from allowing employees to “engage in concerted activities” for “collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  (Cintas Corp. and Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, AFL-CIO, CLC [UNITE], 344 NLRB No. 118, 2005)

That policy did not mention wages, but the NLRA found that employees could reasonably assume that it covered any discussion of pay.

Bottom line: Don’t cast too wide a net when setting your organization’s confidentiality policy. Revise your policy so it defines “confidential information” as narrowly as possible and so the language will not lead employees to believe they may not discuss their pay.

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