I work for a small company run by a married couple. They forbid all of us employees from talking to each other about how much we make. Even though it’s not a written rule or anything like that, I’m too scared to do it because I fear someone will rat me out and I’ll lose my job. The owners’ son and nephew work here. They often provide the worst customer service, but I think they get away with it because they’re family. I sometimes think the owners don’t want us talking about our pay because we might find out their son and nephew are paid a lot more than the rest of us even though we do the same thing. Is it legal for them to prevent us from talking about our pay with each other?
Talk about pay forbidden
Dear Talk about pay forbidden:
Given the nature of your question, I contacted James R. Theuer, an attorney who practices employment law in the Hampton Roads area (http://www.theuerlaw.com/). While he cautioned that particular facts are important to determining the rights of an employee in your situation; and you should consult an attorney for specific legal advice on your rights, he provided the following general information:
“Under the National Labor Relations Act, all employees, whether in a union or not, have the right to engage in concerted activities. Concerted activities include the right of employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment (such as wages) with each other. Furthermore, the same Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of such rights. The National Labor Relations Board is charged with enforcing these rights. An employer can limit to some extent how the right is exercised. For example, the employer can require that employees limit such discussions to the non-working time of the employees involved. Non-working time includes breaks, lunch, and time before or after work. Similarly, an employer can impose neutral employer policies that the employee cannot violate in exercising the right. For example, an employer could prohibit an employee from accessing a payroll system to discover the wages of other employees.”
I don’t get my boss. He operates in his own little world. Most kids around here go back to school after Labor Day and my boss is having a cookout/pool party at his home on Monday, September 2nd. I have plans for a quiet, laid back day with my husband and kids. The last thing I want to do is drag them to a company shindig on the last day of my kids’ summer vacation and the day before their first day of the school year. But if I don’t go, I think my boss will be disappointed and I’ll suffer the consequences in subtle ways. My husband thinks I’m worrying over nothing and should just thank my boss for the invitation and kindly decline. I’m hoping you can understand why I’m worried and tell me how I should handle this.
Want to be with family
Dear Want to be with family:
I can understand where you are coming from but I can also see things from your boss’s perspective. While you may want to have some alone time with your family before the first day of school, your boss may be trying to do something nice for all of his employees and their families. Your negative reaction to your boss’s party brings to light the fact that every person in an organization is different and perceives things differently. This may not be the response you are looking for, but I see no harm with you and your family making a brief appearance when the party first starts. I am under the impression it is a day-time versus evening event. That way, you prevent any possible negative repercussions you think could occur if you do not attend; and you still have a good part of the day and evening to spend alone with your family.
© 2013 Rozanne R. Worrell