I’m going to dispel a common myth right now when it comes to something that is near and dear to most of our hearts – money.
The myth is that you can fire someone for talking about how much money they make. The truth is, you typically can’t. That is what is known as protected activity, and it is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. I want to dispel it because I run into it all the time, and I can understand why. It doesn’t seem right – that people can sit around and talk about their income and I can’t stop them.
Now, that being said, let me put out a little word to the not-so-wise. If, after reading these words of wisdom, you decide that you want to go and chat up your co-workers about their pay, think twice. I can honestly not recall a single, solitary situation where this ended well. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
First off, and this is going to come as a shock, I know, but people lie. Don’t believe me? I have a 28 inch waist. That is not true (I have a 30″ waist). Ha! Fooled you again!!
Second, though you are probably legally within your rights, and your employer can’t do anything to you for talking about your pay, that doesn’t mean that it will endear you to your boss.
Third – and you should have seen this coming – loopholes exist. For instance, some industries and positions are exempt. Also, you don’t have free reign to go and do this when you should be working, not only is that not cool, it’s probably not protected.
Finally, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am in Texas, so my experience is primarily related to the great state of Texas. But other states, while less civilized in most every other respect, may have explicit laws (and no, I am not just referring to California, though they do come to mind).
If you are an employer and have someone who is running their mouth, it may be worth a conversation with them, but be careful. Consult with your HR dude or dudette, your attorney, or both (it’ll be fun!) and let them know what is going on and that you read this awesome blog by this awesome HR guy and you know that you probably can’t do anything to them, but at the same time you would like to talk to them and “curb the behavior.” HR people and Employment Lawyers love it when you talk to them like that. It is like catnip.