Pay Transparency: Your Employer Can’t Tell You Not to Discuss Your Salary

Has your employer told you not to discuss or compare your salary with co-workers? Your employer is wrong. 

You may freely discuss your salary and benefits in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Your employer cannot lawfully stop you. State and federal law protect an employee’s ability to discuss their pay freely and openly without fear of retaliation or termination. 

Washington, D.C. Employees

In the District of Columbia, the D.C. Wage Transparency Act restricts employers from implementing policies that prohibit employees from discussing their pay. Employees have a right to private legal action if an employer retaliates against them for doing so. 

Whether this statute applies may depend on when your contract was entered into, but employment contracts signed prior to the enactment of the statute in December of 2014, are still covered under federal law. 

Under the District’s Act, employers must provide each employee with a written notice of their rate of pay, including any bonuses, commissions, or other compensation at their time of hire. The notice must also include the employee’s right to file a complaint with the District of Columbia’s Department of Employment Services if they believe they have been paid unfairly. In addition, an employee’s pay stub must include gross pay and deductions for that pay period.

Maryland Employees

Maryland law does not directly prohibit employers from retaliating against employees that talk about their wages with other employees. However, employee discussions around wages and working conditions are still “protected concerted activity” under federal law. This means that employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for discussing wages.

Employers in Maryland are also prohibited from asking employees about their previous salary history. Employees and potential new hires, however, are free to disclose this information to employers, especially during salary negotiations.

At the time of hire, Maryland requires that employers give to employees notice of pay days, the rate of pay and leave benefits. Pay stubs must include gross earnings of the employee and all deductions from those gross earnings. The employee must also receive one pay period’s notice of any change in pay, except for pay increases. 

Virginia Employees

Virginia employees may talk about their wages with other employees without fearing termination, suspension or other forms of punishment from an employer. Virginia law prohibits employers from terminating or otherwise retaliating against employees for talking about their wages or asking other employees about wages. 

In Virginia, employees must receive notice about the frequency and method payment, a written statement of earnings, any wages withheld and other information. The information about wages that the employer will need to disclose may depend on the type of business the employer is engaged. 

Federal Protections & Pay Transparency

In addition to state law, several federal laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act, safeguard an employee’s rights to engage in “protected concerted activity,” which encompasses discussing their compensation and job conditions with colleagues. 

A protected concerted activity occurs when two or more employees act for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action. Examples of group action may include advocating for pay and benefits, as well as changes to safety and workplace conditions.

Contact Potomac Legal Group if you have faced threats, discipline, retaliation or termination for discussing wages or workplace conditions.

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