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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Can Californians talk about their wages at work?

For many people who go to work in Fresno, California, talking about one's wages is taboo. Even if no one specifically says so, people just seem afraid to talk about how much money they are making or, at best, feel very uncomfortable with the prospect of doing so.

However, under California law, employers are strictly prohibited from preventing employees from discussing their wages. They may not in any way condition an employee's employment on wage confidentiality, and they may not punish or discriminate against an employee who chooses to discuss his or her pay.

On a related point, employers may not force an employee to sign a document purporting to waive his or her right to talk about his or her wages. In other words, the right of California workers to talk about matters related to their pay is fairly absolute.

While the topic of salary is generally not something welcome in polite conversation, in many cases, it can be an important point to discuss. Even outside the context of labor unions, employees who talk with each other about their pay might discover that different people are getting paid different amounts for the same work. This may in turn be the first step in uncovering systemic employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender or some other prohibited basis.

Employees in Fresno and throughout Northern California should remember that they are indeed allowed to discuss their pay and may have many good reasons for doing so. Employers who even in a more subtle fashion try to discourage this practice are treading on dangerous legal ground. If an employer crosses the line and punishes an employee for discussing wages, the employee may want to determine if they can take legal action against the employer.

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