The company you work for hires a new person who is going to be doing a similar job. Your boss brings you into the office to tell you about the hiring. On your way out the door, they smile and mention, almost as a throwaway comment, that it would be best if you just didn’t tell this new hire how much you’re being paid.
This is concerning to you. On one hand, maybe it means that the new person is being paid much less than you are, so your boss doesn’t want them to know that they are being underpaid for their position. On the other hand, maybe the new hire is making twice what you are and you are the one that your boss doesn’t want to inform that you’re being underpaid. Either way, it’s a problem, and you wonder if your boss can even tell you not to talk about your wages.
Employees have a right to discuss wages in California
Under California law, your boss cannot tell you not to talk about wages. You always have a right to do so if you would like. You can discuss them with your coworkers, and you certainly can tell the new hire how much you make. They don’t have to tell you any information, of course, but these conversations cannot be prohibited by your employer. Doing so would be a violation of your rights.
The general reason that employers discourage conversations about wages, of course, is simply to reduce the amount that they have to pay. But this is unfair to employees and can artificially suppress their wages because they just are not aware that they’re being paid too little. Therefore, the law has been written to protect employees from these types of predatory behaviors.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop all employers from thinking that they can institute these types of rules. If you believe your rights have been violated, be sure you know exactly what legal steps to take.