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The article "Courage and the Supreme Court" in the PSI (now IAAP) magazine called The Secretary in April 1982 documented the case of a non-union executive secretary who won her job back after appealing her discharge for engaging in concerted employee communications protected under the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act. She openly discussed her salary. It remains my understanding that discussing your personal pay with other employees still holds that protection. Revealing or discussing company-confidential information about other employees is, of course, a properly dischargable offense at present.

Mind you, most people will not go to the trouble of taking a discharge fight to the Supreme Court, so maybe this is like whistle-blower protections. Instead of having to sue to win your rights, a preemptive law will now exist to prohibit improper management actions. But this goes far beyond that, in permitting any payroll clerk to freely openly publish all pay records. Doubt that provision will survive in any final bill without substantial modification.

Nevertheless, this is just another move that certainly raises the heat under HR.


Good point, that Fitzpatrick also makes in his point, that the NLRA and the NLRB have consistently held that company rules prohibiting employees from discussing their pay are unlawful. My take, consistent with yours, is that by amending the FLSA as the the Paycheck Fairness Act Section proposes to do, the heat under HR is indeed cranked up significantly.

I think that part of the issue also is that companies (especially those not currently unionized) don't know that they can't prevent this behavior.

In several occasions when I've mentioned this in HR circles when the topic of pay discrimination and then discussion between employees comes up, most, if not all, of the HR folks don't know anything about it.

Perhaps it would be just as useful to explain (to Congress and the American people) that there are currently safeguards in place, rather than passing another law to protect the same root problem.

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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